I’m almost sick to my stomach right now.
Not from an illness, unless you count human depravity an illness.
No, I’m sick from seeing evil.
For some reason, the evil in this world has really decided to wave itself in my face the last couple days. I just got done telling our students in youth group how their generation was having a harder time escaping anxiety and finding peace than any in human history, and that part of the reason was how easily their Facebook news feeds bring evil right to their eyes. It seems that evil was all too eager to prove my own words to me.
Every evil from apathy to foolishness to desperation to sadism. Everywhere on the spectrum.
The cyclist who runs a red light on his bike, across a corner he can’t see around, and then stops to pick a fight with the motorist who calls him out.
The creep who prowls online dating sites looking for someone to scam out of their entire savings, leaving them to pick up the pieces.
The drunk who gets behind the wheel and barrels down Main Street with no thought to what lives and families he might shatter.
The company who afflicts their workers with terminal disease because they’re too cheap to offer occupational safety.
It can get really discouraging really quickly.
And on top of that, we have to deal with three very subtle, almost subconscious lies being told by our media and entertainment industries on the nature of evil.
1. It’s winning.
I’ve never seen so many teenagers who are politically and sociologically well-versed. Yes, there are important issues out there. Racism. The Islamic State. The steepening financial crisis. But these are burdens they should never have to carry. Not at their age. Not to the degree that they’re carrying them, to the degree where they’re robbed of peace and filled with fear.
That’s the downside of our information age. Everyone knows everything. In decades past, we knew some things, more so as television become more integrated in our lives. But now we can see into every nook and cranny of an issue, every small development, every public response by every Senator Tom, Representative Dick, and Commentator Jane (and their bickering at each other). Perhaps the worst is the millions of local tragedies that you’d never hear about, brought to your eyes only because some old friend in Florida shared it. What other generation has ever had this much evil overload to deal with?
It’s easy to walk away from such a landscape thinking that evil is taking over. It’s more important than ever to be in the Word and remember that God has ultimately decreed otherwise.
2. It’s understandable.
Evil hasn’t just been shouted at us to remove our peace. It’s been glamorized by our entertainment.
Think about evil; it’s either cartoony or sympathetic. Cartoony as in Marvel villains, or other shallow comic-book charlatans who aren’t given any motivation or depth and just exist to be defeated. Sympathetic as in villains (or anti-hero protagonists) whose tragic backstory almost makes them relatable. They’re horrible people, but we root for them because the story has an insidious way of humanizing them. It causes an awful agreement in our hearts: “evil is understandable”. Almost beautiful, in a way. Necessary, even, to “affirm our humanity” or some such.
3. It really only comes from others.
They’re the problem, says the world. That other political party. That other religious group. Those participating in this or that social ill. Sort them out, says the world, and we’ll be all right.
Then you walk back out onto the street see evil in its true form. It isn’t limited to big corporations, criminal rings, or Capitol Hill. It emanates from our dimly lit apartments, our street corners, our workplaces. It waits to be unleashed from our keyboards. It lurks within our churches. It’s not intellectual or painfully beautiful; it’s the gray, callous, almost afterthought evil of “I just don’t care”. I just don’t care that there’s something wrong about my actions. My life has sucked and I’m entitled to treat people the way I want. Times are rough and I do what I gotta do. As if something inside us has gone dark, like a store sign after closing hours. This evil isn’t defeated after a two hour run time. It doesn’t learn its lessons or conveniently vanish. It goes on hurting the world.
Occasionally, a movie or show is honest enough to show our kind of casual villainy. But we don’t really go to see those productions. They’re too real.
Evil doesn’t come from special people. It comes from us. Every one of us is the problem. Something has gone dark in us, was dark in us from the moment we were born. We are all sinful.
…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. (Romans 3:23-24)
You notice how nobody ever remembers to attach verse 24 to verse 23 these days? It’s a wonderful counterpunch to evil, the best news there is. His grace and redemption outshine evil, expose us behind our deflections, so that we can receive grace.
Be encouraged today. Jesus wins in the end. And he is offering you his hand, to wash your soul and bring you onto the winning side.