All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags;
we all shrivel up like a leaf,
Recently, I have been thinking about the nature of evil. That malicious entity that is hard to define but identified quickly when experienced. It is a destructive and dehumanizing force that is revealed in the actions, attitudes, and activities of people everywhere.
This past week, I returned from Rwanda where I was immersed in a culture that had experienced some of the most heinous evil (genocide of 2 million people) I could ever imagine. The idea that rational people could indiscriminately hack and bludgeon their neighbors, including children and infants is an unimaginable evil. Its is numbing in its intensity and devastating in its scope.
When I returned, I was greeted with the news that a former Youth Pastor at the church I pastor, was recently arrested and charged with aggravated sexual assault of a minor. Although I did not know or serve with this pastor, there are many in my congregation who knew him and were absolutely shocked at the allegations against this person who had been a blessing to many.
These things lead to consider the nature of evil. In light of atrocities and tragedies, we try to make sense out of evil by trying to marginalize the perpetrators to make them different than ourselves. The fact that most of the Rwandan Genocide perpetrators identified themselves as Christian makes us want to rationalize their faith away. "No one who does such horrible things could actually be a Christian! There are lots of people who profess Jesus, but don't follow him!" we tell ourselves. We quote scriptures and tell ourselves that we are safe, all the while missing the truth about evil.
Evil abounds because its part of who we are. The notion of human depravity is basic in Christianity and it simply says that when we are separated from God, we are capable of every type of evil known to man. Whats interesting is that the evil within is not removed immediately upon knowing Jesus. According to the Bible, there is an ongoing process where we continually strive to live and walk by the Spirit of God, who is actively antagonizing and "putting to death" our natural inclination towards evil. Yet, we should make no mistake, that the propensity to do evil is not an external force that possesses us as much as an internal character that is expressed.
In Christianity, it is this depravity that requires a savior who can not only pay for consequences of our evil but instill us with a new character to overcome our own evil. This is the liberating aspect of salvation that is not discussed as often as it should.
I believe that these things happen to help us reflect upon our own natures. It should help us to stop judging others by demanding justice for their crimes while seeking mercy for our own. My parents used to talk about people who did crimes and say "Only by the grace of God am I". That is the simple truth.
I am praying for your wholeness, healing and that its not by our power or might, but by His spirit that we overcome our own evil. (Zech 4:6)
May God bless you today
Pastor M TRaylor