When I say the word ‘evil’ what comes to your mind: a scene from a horror movie, vile dictators, your boss? ‘Evil’ is not a word that’s bandied about very easily anymore and is considered by some to be an outmoded concept that doesn’t apply to life anymore.
Still, most people would recognize evil in the world around us when we encounter stories of mass graves in war-torn lands or children killed in their schools by rampaging psychopaths. It is hard to call those things by any other name.
If we look a bit closer at our own lives, however, we will see the impulse to evil within our own souls. Evil is not only such radical, mind-blowing acts. Evil is also the will to act in ways that are morally reprehensible or bring misfortune to others. In the biblical world, evil is personified by Satan, the devil who opposes God’s goodness in the world and the lives of individuals. The word ‘evil’ appears throughout Scripture to name actions and ways that reflect idolatry, sin, harm to others, and more. As with sin, evil can grab hold of our lives in dramatic ways that are hard to shake free.
One of the earliest Christian writings outside of the New Testament is the Didache, or Teaching of the Twelve Apostles. Likely an early 2nd century document from Syria, the Didache begins this way:
There are two ways, one of life and one of death, but a great difference between the two ways.
These words remind me of what the Apostle Paul wrote in Galatians, where he contrasts the acts of the flesh with the fruits of the Spirit in human lives. He describes the acts of the flesh as follows:
Sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19-21)
What does it look like for us to not only turn away from evil in a general sense but to turn away from the evil in our own lives?
Take a moment to consider this series of questions from a common baptism service:
- Do you renounce Satan and all the spiritual forces of wickedness that rebel against God?
- Do you renounce the evil powers of this world which corrupt and destroy the creatures of God?
- Do you renounce all sinful desires that draw you from the love of God?
- Do you turn to Jesus Christ and accept him as your Savior?
- Do you put your whole trust in his grace and love?
- Do you promise to follow and obey him as your Lord?
Today, take a step to turn from evil.