English philosopher Edmund Burke “The only thing necessary for the triumph [of evil] is for good men to do nothing.”
Martin Luther King Jr., Accepting Nobel Peace Prize, Dec. 10, 1964 “I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. That is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant.”
St. Paul: Eph. 6:10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.
Some have said that the concept of evil is an archaic idea left over from the Middle Ages. How should I respond? With the growth of medicine and psychology over the past fifty years, there has arisen a philosophy of thinking that says that all behavior can be explained by proper diagnosis of mental or physical origin. Therefore, anyone who is a serial murderer or enjoys hurting others is mentally ill.
Unfortunately this removes all human responsibility for our actions and reactions. The Bible is very clear about human nature and teaches that evil is something that is within all of us unless we face it and deal with it. In Genesis 8:21 following the great flood the Lord said, “Never again will I curse the ground because of man, even though every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood.”
I thought that evil came from Satan rather than from within people. Is this biblically accurate? Many people have come to believe that evil is the sole possession of Satan. This idea has not come from the Bible, but Hollywood. While Satan is our tempter and enemy, we don’t need to give him too much credit for our bad behavior. Satan tempted Jesus throughout his ministry, but Satan had no power to make Jesus do evil just as he has no power to make us do evil.
Listen to what Jesus said about the nature of evil, “But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man ‘unclean.’ 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.” Matthew 15:18 Jesus teaches that the origin of evil does not come from outside us, but evil is in our very nature.
Can you cite an example of how this kind of evil works within us even when we are upstanding law abiding citizens? The reality of the Holocaust in World War II is a prime example of good people doing evil things. It must be remembered that the majority of people in Germany at that time were church-going people. Although they knew the truth of the Gospel, a large portion of them embraced National Socialism (NAZISM) and were either directly or indirectly complicit in the murder of six million Jews. They were not all crazy or mentally ill! They were, in fact, living demonstrations of what can happen to people when self-interest takes full control of life. They turned their backs on the truth of Jesus and let evil emerge in their heart by the rhetoric of Adolph Hitler.
What are we to do when we have evil thoughts emerging in our lives? Evil will attempt to rear its ugly head whenever we are hurt, ignored, overlooked, or taken advantage of. At the first sign of evil, “I’ll get even, I wish they were dead, I hate him or her,” we must turn to the Lord Jesus and confess that thought. We cannot afford to allow it to take root in our hearts, so we give it over to the Lord as soon as possible and ask the Lord to fill us with his truth.
When we see evil happening what are we to do? Human nature would rather not get involved in confronting evil in all its forms. Most of us would rather walk away and hope somebody else does something about it. Albert Einstein was not only a math genius, but he had keen insight into life when we said, “The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.”
Our role is always to expose evil, confront it when possible, and not allow it to victimize others. This is truly risky, but unless we speak up, we will wake up one day like German Pastor Martin Niemoller, 1892-1984, who said of Nazi Germany, “They came for the Communists, and I didn’t object, for I wasn’t a Communist. They came for the Socialists, and I didn’t object, for I wasn’t a Socialist. They came for the labor leaders, and I didn’t object, for I wasn’t a labor leader. They came for the Jews, and I didn’t object, for I wasn’t a Jew. Then they came for me, and therecwas no one left to object.”
If evil really comes from within us, how can I stop it from arising in the first place? While you can never stop it from attempting to rise up its ugliness, you do have the power to control it in Jesus Christ. There are three things to do the minute evil thoughts, evil temptations, evil actions try to overtake your heart and mind.
- Admit that what you are thinking or doing is evil rather than rationalize it in any way.
- Cry out to Jesus to intervene and give you strength to resist the evil.
- Ask the Lord to give you his mind and his heart regarding the situation or temptation you are facing.
All three things can be accomplished in a matter of seconds with experience and persistence. The Lord never wants us to be victims of evil. His desire is that we overcome evil with his good.
WHAT IS THE LOCAL CHURCH AND CHRISTIAN TO BE DOING?
- Leaders need to spend the majority of their time on their knees, in prayer, seeking the mind and will of Jesus.
- Christians need to be alert and ready for the enemies attack on the church, the pastor the leaders, the member, and our children.
- Christians must know how to speak up to and confront evil in the name and power of Jesus Christ.
- Christians must keep their focus on Jesus and do everything in their power to pursue him and represent him.
- Christians must know the Word of God so well that we can quote it right back to temptation just as Jesus did after 40 days in the wilderness.
- Christians must be public about their faith and stand firm on the truth that Jesus is the one and only savior for all mankind.
The only way evil can be defeated is when good people of faith stand up in Jesus Christ, say “no” and refuse to let evil dominate the culture.