It seems in the course of a pretty chaotic year, evil hasn’t received as much up-front screen time as in ages past – too many other things stealing the limelight. Instead, evil seems to be taking a sabbatical of sorts, perhaps wishing not to be identified, wishing not to be noticed, or even thought not to exist. But, it sure does seem that we are surrounded by it; doesn’t it?
But, is evil even real? And what is it?
A technical definition of evil might be – Evil: Profoundly immoral, wicked, or ethically reprehensible.
That kind of definition gives us some traction, but to identify something as “evil” in this way means to measure it against a standard of morality, or purity, or “non-evil.” Most of us would simply qualify another party as evil because it conflicts with our moral code. Another political party. Another source of entertainment. Another subjective opinion. Another… whatever. And, for the most part, we do not often cast this terminology verbally (even though we may think or feel it).
In any case if we do dare to lob the invective of “evil” across the room, we do so wielding our own moral character as higher than the next; as being the vaunted nobility.
In practice that would imply numerous standards of purity, but a society, or a world in which there are billions of standards of evil (and good) … is anarchy. To have integrity, the standard against which evil is measured needs to be something much more permanent, universal, and held in a singular agency.
Psalm 23 tells us that evil surrounds us in this fallen world. Oftentimes when evil is mentioned the darkness of netherworld beings comes to mind… “what evil lurks in yonder distant halls…?” This genre of evil has produced billions for the entertainment industry. But, evil lurks in the physical world too. And Hollywood has scored big with this kind of evil as well.
Broadly speaking, and biblically speaking, evil is that which collides with the will of God. So, technically speaking, the law of God, the Ten Commandments and all, is that which is revealed to us which is good. When we choose to move in opposition to those directives, we move in an evil vein. When demons move in opposition to the nature of God, they move in an evil direction as well.
Evil then, is anything which attempts to redefine God’s good order: in regards to creation, humanity, marriage, or sexuality. Anything which seeks to challenge the divine supremacy and position of the Creator Himself. Anything which challenges the biblical and orthodox truth of the work and person of Christ. Anything which deviates from God’s moral holiness and His Word.
No one is exempt from doing evil in this broken world. We know it’s here. Whether it is from within ourselves, or from the spiritual realm, we are slogging through it. We must recognize its existence.
Here’s the problem: when an individual must acknowledge the presence of evil, and a universal agent of morality (God) there is an implied accountability to that being.
And yet some still choose to accept the existence of evil without a corresponding standard of truth. Again, integrity comes into play, and rational thinking.
So, why would God allow evil to begin with, if it just complicates things? The answer is both simple and complex: Evil is part and parcel to people being given a free will to choose (or reject) God.
In His grace God allows His creation (man) to open and close doors, to make decisions, to choose whether or not he will follow the divine (or not). When man chooses to extend an invitation in darkness, evil steps in through an open door.
At no point, however, has God ever lost control. God in His sovereignty is over control of everything. Everything He does is with the intention of glorifying himself. Nothing happens except that it is by His permissive hand. Therefore, everything that is happening in His creation is under His scrutiny and His authority.
Evil is real, and comes with consequences. But, He gives us a choice.
“The highway of the upright is to depart from evil;
He who watches his way preserves his life” (Proverbs 16:17).