Thursday, April 14, 2016

The Problem of Evil

The problem of evil has been debated and explored for thousands of years. Up until our modern time, it was a given for us that evil existed. What we are seeing in modern society now, especially in the West, is a denial or redefining of evil and morality. It is a major shift in thinking.

There is, however, one sense where we very much are absorbed with the issue of evil more than ever before. It seems strange that on the one hand we want to remove this truth, but on the other we have become almost obsessed with it. It really comes down to where our focus and motives are. In our day, evil is most always considered in terms of “the other”. We see evil in that other person, that other group, that other society, that other mindset or views. We get caught up in this, and as we do so, we assume in ourselves that we are among the few that are “good”. Today's extreme behavior of the tolerance movement is very much driven by this energy, yet, no one is really immune. It is, after all, a human heart matter. When battle lines are drawn against each other, we see it in all camps.

God does not have the limited or reduced view of good that we do. Ours is based on a sliding scale of our own human perception, with others as a comparison – such as, “at least I (or we) are not as bad as they”. Today we are quick to use the words “do not judge me”, championing personal freedom as an all-encompassing banner, yet are constantly preoccupied with “the other” and what they deserve.

The Bible says that “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” Jeremiah 17:9. This is the human condition universally. It is very hard for us to see evil in ourselves, however. It is uncomfortable to do, certainly.  We run away from this idea or strive to live up to a code or philosophy of some kind in order to somehow try to counteract it, feeling that, if the good somehow outweighs the bad, we will be OK. We have an idea that we are really not so bad, failing to understand what true good is. True good is in relation to the source of good, which is God. True good is not relative, it is pure. When we are truthful with ourselves and look within as we stand before a Holy God, we are confronted with the fact that denial or redefining moral reality only adds to our sad state.

Deep within, we know – though we push it away, distract ourselves, or deny with all our energy - that we do wrong, we are imperfect, we hurt others, disappoint our own selves, and fall so short of good. Thankfully, though the judge’s gavel has been brought down, the sentence does not have to be despair. We can find joy, release, and true freedom.

As we are confronted with our own evil - the Bible calls this sin -  we are invited to fall to our knees and receive the Christ who, in the purest unfathomable love, paid for it in full on the cross. He rose in victory over sin and death, bringing us true life. Great is the love God has for us, that though we are sinners, He gave His only Son.

When we receive Christ, we are washed clean. Where there was once enmity and separation from a Holy God, we find through Jesus, tender mercy and connection. Where there was hopelessness and darkness, we find rejoicing in the beautiful unmerited grace of God. God, who at the same time as being utterly and awesomely Holy, receives us with open arms in the gift of His Son.

Artwork: © Jeffrey M Green. Altered colored pencils self portrait.

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