Recognizing Evil

    Oct 04, 2015

    Preacher: William (Tex) Culton

    Detail:

    Job1:1, 2:1-10   Mark 10:2-16

    There was a time in my life when I desired to be a writer. My pen name was William Owen. I had an agent whom I thought was my good friend; I was blind to his amorality, and believed everything he told me. I was ready to compromise my integrity and ministry for a lucrative writing career. There was talk of a television series and movie rights to my first book. I was saved from following my agent’s lead by my wife who recognized his evil intent. I, at first, reacted a little like Job toward his good wife, but eventually understood the danger in continuing the unhealthy relationship and let it go.

    I did not recognize the evil because it was disguised as friendship and I lost sight of God’s will for my life.

    Most evil does not reveal itself as ugly or abhorrent or as recognizable like a devil in a red suit with a pointed tail and horns and a leering smile parted by a forked tongue.

    Evil is the subtle emotional and psychological bending of the commandments of God to our own selfish advantage. Evil is ignoring the intent of the law while following the letter of the law. Evil is using the law to judge others and protect yourself.

    Jesus pointed out that sin, the commitment of evil, is more often what we feel in our hearts and think in our minds than what we do outwardly. He placed hating someone on the same plane as murder. He raised the bar on adultery to lusting after another.

    If you think it is easy to recognize evil and turn from it, think again.

    The Roman Catholic Church has just come through a horrendous time because of a number of evil priests abusing children. Most abused children sense something is wrong, but since their abuse is coming from an adult in authority (In the church cases, a priest), it is not recognized as evil. Now all priests are suspect, where before they were trusted as good men who turned from evil. (Could it be possible that the abuser does not consider what their abuse as evil? Jesus warned Peter that sin was like a lion crouching at the door. Think about that image. It is quiet and patient and strikes without warning.

    We need to know what is GOOD. We need to recognize God’s will for our lives and know who we are and who we were created to be and the spiritual path God has prepared for us to follow. ANYTHING that tries to lead us from that path is evil.

    Knowing yourself is of the utmost importance. The key to knowing oneself is knowing God. This may not make sense to many of you. But my experience has been that knowing about God is of little help when it comes to recognizing evil. Theology, the nature of God, is up for debate, as is the nature of evil. You can understand both inside and out, but that is not knowing either or recognizing either when they are in your life.

    What I am about to say cannot be substantiated by any scientific study, but only by a few years of observation and many years of experience. Good and evil are expressions from the soul and are either an identification with the creator of the soul or its adversary. Evil is not judged by laws, but by the Spirit of God. One can follow the law to the letter and still do evil.

    I recently watched a documentary that dealt with emotional problems that could only be healed through forgiveness. It interviewed a Vietnam Vet who dealt with the fact that he had killed by drinking and drugging. He felt as if everyone could tell that he had done something evil; as if he had the mark of Cain. It was only through a program that offered him the chance to be forgiven that he found some relief and got sober. He was a good soldier and at the time of his service he did not consider killing the enemy evil. In fact, no one for the most part does. But killing is not a part of the image in which we were created, and therefore, whether it is in self- defense or in defense of one’s country, it demands confession and forgiveness. (Cain and Abel).

    There was only one Job, that is, until Jesus. All of us will at some time succumb to evil and do evil or refrain from doing something we ought and allow evil to happen. So it is incumbent on us to recognize it if for no other reason than to confess it and find forgiveness (that may seem selfish, but unless we are living forgiven lives, we are not fully available to anyone else, and will end up taking out our guilt on others with criticism, or with unrealistic expectations.)

    [We just had a woman who refused to issue a marriage license to same sex couples because she thought it was evil and against her “faith”. That same faith allowed her to be married four times, divorced three, and have two children out of wedlock. That may simply be hypocrisy, but it seems to me that she has a difficult time recognizing evil.]

     

    The reason Job is such a critical story to our understanding of good and evil, is because it was written to explain that bad things do not necessarily happen as the result of sin (evil). And being good is not insurance against anything bad happening to us. The rain falls on the just and the unjust!  If you are being good in order to be rewarded, know that the only worthwhile reward is the knowledge that you are reflecting God to the world.

    I say this only because I think that it is the way we have to think in order to recognize evil and turn from it. I’ll say it again; Only God can reveal evil to us. So the key to recognizing it is having God in us. [God waits to be invited in. God knocks at the door of our hearts continually, but we have to open the door and invite God in. With God comes the light that distinguishes good from evil. With God comes the enlightenment we need, to know ourselves and accept that the evil in our lives can be exorcised by grace and we can live forgiven. With God comes the possibility of change. And by this I mean changing one’s concept of good and evil.

    EXAMPLE: The Apostle Peter denied Christianity, the gift of grace from God to all humankind, to gentiles until he was provided a new way of considering the Word of God in a revelation from God. He had a dream that is recorded in Acts 11 wherein he saw a sheet coming down from heaven filled with animals that were considered clean and unclean by the Jewish dietary laws. A voice told him to kill and eat, which he refused to do because “Nothing profane or unclean had ever entered his mouth.” And the voice said, “What God has made clean, you must not profane.” This happened three times and then three gentiles came to his door and told Peter that an angel had instructed them to bring Simon who would give them a message of salvation. Peter said the Spirit told him to go. When Peter had preached the gospel, the Holy Spirit rested on the hearers and Peter was compelled to baptize them, going against the teachings of the new church. This changed the attitude of many and opened the whole world to the gospel. Before this revelation, it was seen as evil to offer the salvation of Christ to the gentiles.

    Evil is a veil that the winds of the Spirit can lift from our eyes if we seek God’s will and are courageous enough to listen to our hearts. We think that evil masquerades and changes its disguises to lure us away from God’s way. But that doesn’t seem to be what I see in the Biblical witness. What I see is our personal responsibility to stay close to God. First through a personal commitment to God in Christ and then through the discipline of friendship with God; worship, prayer and study of God’s truth. It is the presence of God’s Spirit in us that gives us the freedom to choose good and turn from evil because it recognizes fear and assures us that “If we live, we live to the Lord and if we die we die to the Lord, so that whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.”