By David Faust
Evil sounds harsh to contemporary ears, but sometimes it’s the only word that fits. Child abuse is more than a mistake; it’s evil. Terrorism cannot be justified as a political strategy; it’s evil. Pornography isn’t a joke or an innocuous expression of free speech; it degrades women, shames and enslaves men, and destroys families. Betraying your spouse can’t be rationalized as merely an error of judgment. Drunkenness isn’t a harmless rite of passage for young adults; it’s a thief that steals good judgment, a murderer that kills on the highway, a butcher that carves up a person’s dignity and reputation.
Whatever form it takes—scheming up a deceptive business deal, manipulating another person for sexual gratification, or teaching a false doctrine from the pulpit—evil is dangerous and devastating.
That’s why no one takes evil more seriously than the Lord does, and no book deals more honestly with evil than the Bible does. The Old Testament prophets called a spade a spade: “Turn from your evil ways,” they said. “Seek good, not evil, that you may live” (Jeremiah 18:11; Ezekiel 33:11; Amos 5:14). Jesus taught his disciples to pray for deliverance from evil (Matthew 6:13).
How should we deal with evil?
Define it. Satan likes to blur the boundaries. Tolerance doesn’t mean we should redefine what God says is right and wrong. Isaiah warned, “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter” (Isaiah 5:20). Calling a lemon “sweet” doesn’t change its true nature, and calling an evil deed “good,” “permissible,” or “simply a sign of changing times” doesn’t mean it pleases God.
Common thinking says it’s not only acceptable but smart to sleep with your partner before marriage to make sure you’re compatible, but God’s Word compares sexual immorality to scooping fire into your lap or walking on hot coals and expecting to avoid scorching your feet (Proverbs 6:27-29). Relentless cultural pressure informs us that “people should be free to marry anyone they want,” including gay and lesbian partners, but the Son of God defined marriage as a man uniting with a woman (Matthew 19:4-6). Now more than ever, we must train ourselves to “find out what pleases the Lord” and “distinguish good from evil” (Ephesians 5:10; Hebrews 5:14).
Defuse it. The best way to take the air out of Satan’s balloon? “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21). Overcome evil with good!
Don’t just lobby against abortion; adopt children and assist young mothers. Don’t just bad-mouth wayward politicians; lift them up in prayer. Don’t mock and berate homosexuals or react to their anger with hostility of your own; love and serve them as Jesus would. Don’t pretend to be flawless when you’re a sinner saved by grace. Don’t whine about problems of the inner city; move there and make a difference or support those who do. Don’t complain about how selfish our society has become; discover the joys of generosity and the blessings of being a servant. Conquer your opponent by feeding him when he’s hungry and giving him a drink when he’s thirsty. Overcome evil with good.
Defeat it. We can’t defeat evil in our own strength, but what we could never do, the Lord has done for us. “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work” (1 John 3:8). He took our sins and guilt with him to the cross, so now we confidently affirm that faith in him “is the victory that has overcome the world” (1 John 5:4).
Instead of acting like evil doesn’t exist or despairing as if it has no solution, let’s define it biblically, defuse it with positive acts of love, and defeat it by relying on the power and grace of the risen Christ.