“Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” – 1 Peter 5:8
A significant issue plaguing the Church in the United States of America is its struggle to see and acknowledge the reality of evil – especially in our own country. Missionaries to other countries often have a different perspective, seeing things we do not see and experiencing things we do not experience. Evil is real to them.
Here in the US we have lived in relative ease for generations compared to the struggles so many around the world face. American Christians have had the luxury of sometimes choosing naïveté. Being unaware may feel easier, because the reality of evil is heavy.
Burden of the knowledge of evil
Our awareness of evil wasn’t part of God’s perfect plan in the garden. He warned Adam and Eve not to eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:5).
Adam and Eve already knew good. In fact, they knew ONLY God’s perfect goodness and peace. God’s command wasn’t withholding good, but it was protecting them from the weight of the knowledge of evil.
Satan seductively talked Eve into questioning God. Taking her eyes off Him, she allowed herself to be deceived and fell into sin. Adam immediately followed. From that moment on they carried the burden of the knowledge of evil… and so do we as a consequence of the Fall. And, it is a burden. A burden from which God desired to protect us.
That knowledge can feel both heavy and overwhelming at times. Our human tendency is to turn away from evil. We often do not want to even be aware it exists. Why? Is it that we feel helpless to change it, and confronting it tests our faith in the character of God? Perhaps it’s because evil is painful.
Evil and pain go hand-in-hand. Pain is part of the human experience and we often turn away from it. We not only struggle at times to sit with our own pain, but also to be present with others in their pain.
Generally, we avoid having to feel pain.
In contrast to our tendency to run from pain, the compassionate heart of God leans into our pain. He weeps with us, joining our pain. It’s one way He loves us, keeping His promise never to leave us or forsake us.
Likewise, through His grace, He calls us to love others by entering into their pain – to stand up against unrighteousness, stand up for the least of these, give voice to the voiceless, enter into the leper colony and love them, and to love the woman who, by the standards of her day, should have been stoned.
In our culture we tend to think loving others means accepting them just as they are or not judging them. What if the love that God calls us to involves sacrifice – the sacrifice of entering another’s world, including their pain?
We have chosen naïveté for too long. The depth of evil in this world is so much more profound than many of us have recognized or been willing to admit. To stay naïve is to open ourselves to more deception. We must be willing to enter into the painful things, to be sober minded with the truth of evil. To call evil EVIL. And, after acknowledging the evil of our day, to shout the Gospel from the rooftops, for it is our only hope.
Satan is calculated and patient, willing to take his time implementing a plan. He is manipulative, a master at twisting a kernel of truth. Perhaps worst of all, he is unrestrained evil with nothing to lose, because his fate has already been sealed. In Hollywood movies, the most frightening villains are the ones who have absolutely nothing to lose… they desire to inflict maximum pain and destruction on others with no restraint. These characters are a shadow of the sheer evil present in Satan himself.
The influence of Satan’s wickedness might not be as hidden as we think. Consider Hitler, Stalin, Lenin, and Mao. Looking back many would question how they could have risen to power to committed such heinous, unspeakable murder. Was it that no one around them knew their plans and of what they were capable, or was it in part the naïveté of people who didn’t want to believe that such evil could exist?
When we choose to be naïve to the evil around us, it will flourish.
In our day, what evil do we tolerate that might cause future generations to say, “how could they not have seen this?”
Beauty in the darkness
“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” – Ephesians 6:12
We must not underestimate or turn a blind eye to evil. Beauty and redemption can be found in the darkness. The wickedness we are tempted to ignore represents the very people who most desperately need the hope of the Gospel. Where there is evil, salt and light must enter so the Gospel can be proclaimed and received (Matthew 5:13-16). Salt serves to stop deterioration, and light shines in the darkness, exposing evil. When God enters the darkness evil is exposed, restrained, and new life in Christ can emerge.
By acknowledging evil we are given an incredible opportunity to enter the darkness as God’s ambassadors, privileged to proclaim hope and life through Christ.
If we don’t expose evil, who will? We who are rooted in Christ are the only ones who can bring true hope and light to the darkness. Jesus said following Him would require sacrifice. “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24).
Take up your cross today. Enter in.