November 14, 2011

The Ironic Seduction of Evil

The question of evil is one that seems unwilling to be silenced.

With all of our human intelligence, curiosity, creative expression, and ability to work toward a goal, why does the problem of evil (personal and corporate) continue to reappear in our discussions of what’s wrong with the world?

Choose any political or economic system you like; it really doesn’t matter. Choose any culture: hunter-gatherers in New Guinea, or brokers in Hong Kong, or anyone in between. Choose any period in history you like.

No matter what time or in what place we humans find ourselves, we struggle with the problem of evil for two reasons: 1) we know there is something better; we have an innate sense of justice (skewed perhaps, but innate), and 2) we expect righteousness because, for many of us, our God-given consciences are not fully dead. We refer to the “law of the jungle” when we speak of someone misusing power in an extreme way. This is not a term of honor.

The ironic seduction of evil tells us we can achieve good outcomes by doing evil things. The ironic seduction of evil tells us ends justify means—but often we get lost in “the maze of the means” and never find a good end. Unable to resolve the resulting conflicts, we begin to tell ourselves things aren’t that bad. We begin to call evil good and say good is impossible in an imperfect world. We settle. And then we settle in. And then we are lost. And then we wonder why we are confused and frustrated.

God’s power over evil is shown as He speaks to our hearts and tells us not to be deceived by the ironic seduction of evil. Then, He tells us what is true and empowers us to live that truth in the middle of evil. Yes, we live in an imperfect world because of something called “original sin.” We all fell into a sinful heritage at once in the Garden of Eden. Yes, it was a real place, and real things happened there!

We can come out of that heritage one person at a time.

One person at a time, we can be good in an imperfect world. It won’t happen through our own personal efforts alone. Alone, we are no match for the ironic seduction of evil. With God, we have the power and privilege of being good in an imperfect world. We can be strengthened as we join with others making that choice.

That power and that privilege begin when we accept and live by God’s view and will for what is right and wrong. So, the next time somebody asks you why there is so much evil in the world, you can tell them: all of humanity fell ill with sin at once, but we can only become well by voluntarily embracing God’s will--one person at a time, one day at a time, one choice at a time.

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