Sometimes we’re shockingly reminded of the evil in the world. I sat in our office listening to my supervisor read aloud the articles from the attack in Paris as it unfolded. In defiance and support, people on Facebook rallied with profile picture changes and threats. I sat, rather unsurprised, considering it all.
It’s a problem that starts with the darkness in an individual’s heart (Romans 6:19) that multiplies exponentially with every person added to the world. We all struggle with it and tragedies happen when someone gives into it like in Paris.
The Darkness In Our Hearts
“So the trouble is not with the law, for it is spiritual and good. The trouble is with me, for I am all too human, a slave to sin. I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate. But if I know that what I am doing is wrong, this shows that I agree that the law is good. So I am not the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.
And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t. I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. But if I do what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.” Romans 7: 14-20 NLT
The only way to eliminate evil is to remove free will from everyone. No one has the freedom to choose love or hate. However, with our autonomy in place we’ll continue to fight against it.
“I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love God’s law with all my heart. But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. Oh, what a miserable person I am!” Romans 7: 21-24
Have you ever been in a moral dilemma or had to choose between the lesser of two evils? In a quiet moment faced the darkness inside of you. Or had to apologize for hurting others? What can be done about it?
Dealing With The Darkness
“Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin.” Romans 7: 24-25
You kill it before it kills you.
We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are. For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God freely and graciously declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when he held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past, for he was looking ahead and including them in what he would do in this present time. God did this to demonstrate his righteousness, for he himself is fair and just, and he declares sinners to be right in his sight when they believe in Jesus. Romans 3: 22-26
“In fact, it says,
“The message is very close at hand;
it is on your lips and in your heart.”
And that message is the very message about faith that we preach: If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved.” Romans 10: 8-10
Jesus takes the punishment due to you and me freely if we let him. To get an idea of how radical that is, consider this: remember how you felt seeing the Paris attack. Now you find yourself the judge in the terrorist’s trial and their future is in your hands. They’re evidently guilty, no evidence is needed to even be presented, and they stand in front of you awaiting your verdict.
What would you do to them?
Instead of death or prison, imagine you served their sentences for them and then pardoned them. Insane, huh? They don’t deserve it and they should die. “For the wages of sin is death…” as recognized in Romans 6: 23.
What if they are sorry, promising they wouldn’t do it again and truly meant it? Punishment is due, a debt is owed, and so would you take that upon yourself and pardon them? That is what Jesus did for anyone willing to turn away from his or her dark nature and follow him.
“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Romans 5: 6-10 NIV
“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.” Romans 8: 1-2 NIV
How Can I Change?
Then begins the process to pull us out of our holes called sanctification. Except we don’t do it to earn anything or pay back a debt. We do it in gratitude. Imagine your largest debt. How thankful would you be if someone paid it off free and clear?
As the old nature is diminished and the new is being revealed we see our responses are changing. Impatience gives way to patience, unforgiveness gives way to mercy, and hate gives way to love, and so on. Two things are happening that deal with many of the world’s problems.
- First is our identity struggles, especially in a highly individualized culture like mine. That problem is settled for me now. I am not defined by what I do, have done, or live for something temporary that will be dust in the end. I may not always be a writer, I won’t always have my family, but I will always be a new person in Christ, an adopted son of God. Because I want to do this, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” I can give myself more easily to writing, family, and friends. My identity does not hinge on that so I can be fully there.
- Secondly, if we loved our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 22:39) like Jesus commanded, we would not do anything to hurt them. The Golden Rule makes sure we cannot use ‘neighbor’ as a loophole. The entire Moral Law that is in the 10 Commandments is encompassed in those two commands and the Golden Rule puts it into action. You wouldn’t kill, take advantage of, or want what others have if you loved like you’re supposed to. If you do, then you’re being disobedient. Doing it would end many problems in the world.
It’s hard, impossible even, and when a true follower of Christ fails, it results in becoming repentant. Then they grow from it. We have help from the Holy Spirit, though.
“The law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature] So God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins. He did this so that the just requirement of the law would be fully satisfied for us, who no longer follow our sinful nature but instead follow the Spirit.
Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit. So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace. For the sinful nature is always hostile to God. It never did obey God’s laws, and it never will. That’s why those who are still under the control of their sinful nature can never please God.
But you are not controlled by your sinful nature. You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you. (And remember that those who do not have the Spirit of Christ living in them do not belong to him at all.) And Christ lives within you, so even though your body will die because of sin, the Spirit gives you life because you have been made right with God. The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you.
Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, you have no obligation to do what your sinful nature urges you to do. For if you live by its dictates, you will die. But if through the power of the Spirit you put to death the deeds of your sinful nature, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.
So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.” For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children. And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering.” Romans 8: 3-17 NLT
“And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will.” Romans 8: 26-27
The problem of evil is solved by first realizing the darkness in our hearts. The fact we recognize it means we acknowledge a transcendent, objective good. Because it is a transcendent perfect standard, we cannot reach it ourselves. Knowing this, God made the way for us. Jesus, either as Savior or Judge, solves the problem of evil; it is an unavoidable choice.