The Evil in our midst

I first wrote this article within days of the horrors of the Christchurch massacre when they were foremost in our minds. But I reflected that emotions and opinions were too raw so I held off to just now.

Since the Christchurch Massacre much has been said and written trying to make sense of how this horrific act of mass murder could have come about. There was much blame for one group or another but what became clear is that the murderer came from a very average Australian family. So the question continues to be asked  … how did this young boy grow up to be this monster?

Some have trod the low path and dragged “identity politics” into the mix, whether it is from a left leaning or right leaning perspective and I won’t give their arguments any further traction by repeating them here. But politics does not adequately explain the why and how.

In a post-Christian, post-modern society, objective truth and objective right and wrong values have been mostly thrust aside. And with it is the concept of “moral evil”.

When we try and digest Christchurch, we also need to digest the 15 women who have been murdered by their partner or former partner just this year in Australia (as at April 2019). Many try and explain this as a failure in upbringing, a failure in culture but when we consider the “why” that causes someone to commit murder (and murder someone they once claimed to love), the notion of “evil” needs to be also considered.

Jesus talked about this 2000+ years ago, when he said,

“For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.”
‭‭Matthew‬ ‭15:19‬ ‭NIV‬‬

The evil of the Christchurch murderer is not just the influences of the world, it is something that comes from within. As a former Policeman, I saw this all too much, with unexplainable acts of evil in murders, rapes, savage beatings.

If we accept that evil comes from within, what is the answer to that evil?

From a Christian perspective, we understand this all too well as each of us have had “fallen short” of God’s standards for life and come to the place where we have “confessed our sins”, asked God for forgiveness and “surrender our lives to Christ”.

There is a well known scripture that speaks about this:

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
‭‭John‬ ‭3:16‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Paul called himself the “worst of sinners” having stood by when the Apostle Stephen was stoned to death. (‭‭1 Timothy‬ ‭1:15‬ )

And like Paul, the words of the Psalmists talks about that salvation.

“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.”
‭‭Psalm‬ ‭51:10‬ ‭NIV‬‬

And with that heart cry, we see the answer from the prophet Ezekiel.

“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.”
‭‭Ezekiel‬ ‭36:26‬ ‭NIV‬‬

So in the face of the “evil in the heart”, the hope of the  Christian life points us back to Jesus Christ and his example.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.”
‭‭Galatians‬ ‭5:22-24‬ ‭NIV‬‬

So for the evil in the heart, there is hope.

A look at the ideals of the Christian life

The Christian walk is based on love.

“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”
‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭4:32‬ ‭NIV‬‬

““Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.””
‭‭Matthew‬ ‭22:36-40‬ ‭NIV‬‬

This love includes our enemies

““You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,”
‭‭Matthew‬ ‭5:43-44‬ ‭NIV‬‬

The Christian walk is based on forgiveness

“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”
‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭4:32‬ ‭NIV‬‬

“Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them.””
‭‭Luke‬ ‭17:4‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Being a Christian doesn’t make us perfect and our old lives and old ways of thinking want to drag us back into the “sin” place. This is compounded by the internet world we are constantly bombarded with messages that want to drag us back into that place of temptation and evil. Pornography abounds. Violence abounds. Selfishness abounds. Online bullying, trolls and vindictive attacks are common place. The tribalism of left and right wants to puts us at war with each other and it is oh so easy to do.

Though written thousands of years before the internet was ever thought of, the ancient wisdom from scripture speaks into our current life experience and problems. Consider these warnings,

“Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.”
‭‭Romans‬ ‭12:9‬ ‭NIV‬‬

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”
‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭4:23‬ ‭NIV‬‬

“reject every kind of evil.”
‭‭1 Thessalonians‬ ‭5:22‬ ‭NIV‬‬

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”
‭‭Philippians‬ ‭4:8‬ ‭NIV‬‬

But there are those who reject the path of confession, cleansing and surrender to Christ. Those who choose instead the “evil”.

The Psalmist describes this human condition well

“In his arrogance the wicked man hunts down the weak, who are caught in the schemes he devises. He boasts about the cravings of his heart; he blesses the greedy and reviles the Lord. In his pride the wicked man does not seek him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God.”
‭‭Psalm‬ ‭10:2-4‬ ‭NIV‬‬

“They close up their callous hearts, and their mouths speak with arrogance.”
‭‭Psalm‬ ‭17:10‬ ‭NIV‬‬

So as we consider the “evil in our midst” know this:

“I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind, to reward each person according to their conduct, according to what their deeds deserve.””
‭‭Jeremiah‬ ‭17:9-10‬ ‭NIV‬‬

There is a God who is just and for those who walk the path of evil, a day of account will come … in this world … and in the next.


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