Yesterday, in a brief conversation with a colleague, reflecting on the recent tragedy in our community, she asked, “Why do we coddle evil?”
She wasn’t only talking about the mass killings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. She was talking about the myriad evils in our world – in our own communities – that we are either blind to, or just consider insignificant.
She was also talking about personified evil – the spiritual forces of wickedness at work in our world; undermining good, turning people away from God and their neighbor, and seeking out opportunities to cause death and destruction.
“Why do we coddle evil?”
I wonder if it’s because we blame evil on people. We see people. We see what they do.
Surely, people do evil things. Surely, people are complicit for their evil acts. Surely, people are responsible – and must be held responsible – for their choices. But, what about the evil that shapes and forms the people who do evil things?
“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Ephesians 6:12
“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” 1 Peter 5:8
I wonder if it’s easier to dismiss evil, blaming it on the bad choices of bad people? We fear evil, of course. But, we think we can avoid it by living in nice neighborhoods, sending our kids to “good” schools, avoiding certain parts of town, not associating with certain types of people, putting “bad” people in prison, protecting our borders, and certainly not participating in anything “too” bad ourselves.
Yes – evil exists in bad neighborhoods, bad schools, and in bad people. Evil also exists in gated communities, private schools, and in “model” citizens. Evil exists in our work places, in our government, on our TVs, and in our social media. Evil, sometimes, exists in us.
Evil isn’t only a troubled young man with an assault-style weapon – though evil was clearly at work in him. Evil is greed. Evil is racism. Evil is materialism. Evil is sexism. Evil is addiction, in all of it’s varieties. Evil is lust. Evil is judging others as inferior. Evil is careless, thoughtless, hurtful words. Evil is idolatry, in all of it’s myriad forms. Evil is selfishness. Evil is division. Evil is power used abusively. Evil is apathy. Evil is hate. Evil is injustice. Evil is violence. Evil is complacency. Evil is pride. Evil is worldliness.
“Why do we coddle evil?”
In moments like these, we inevitably ask questions about how to protect ourselves from future evil. “Shouldn’t we have tougher gun laws? Shouldn’t we have better mental health screenings? Shouldn’t we have better security in our schools?” Security and the protection of the innocent is undeniably prudent. But, evil always finds a way in. Evil always finds a chink in one’s armor. Evil always finds a willing partner.
Perhaps the questions we should be asking, as people of faith are, “How do we name evil, resist evil, and do battle with evil, before evil wreaks such havoc and destruction? How do we acknowledge and name the evil we complacently accept and minimize in our world, our communities, and even in our own homes? How do we stop coddling evil, and start confronting evil?”
I’m not talking about Hollywood-style spiritual warfare and exorcisms – though there certainly may be times, people, and places that is needed. I’m talking about donning the “armor of God” and confronting the forces of darkness in their tangible forms – racism, poverty, injustice, and the pervasive acceptance of myriad worldly values contrary to the will of God.
Jesus said, “I will build my Church, and the gates of Hell will not stand against it!”
The Church of Jesus is not called to avoid evil, to accept evil, or to pander to evil. The Church of Jesus is called to be a bright, piercing, billion-kilowatt light in the darkest darkness. And, where the light shines brightest, the darkness flees.
Rob Bell writes, “Why blame the dark for being dark? It is far more helpful to ask why the light isn’t as bright as it could be.”
One of my favorite quotes is from a missionary named C.T. Studd…
“Some want to live within the sound of a church or chapel bell; I want to run a rescue shop, within a yard of hell.”
Christian friends, “Why do we coddle evil?”