For the Lord gives wisdom… It will save you from the way of evil, from those who speak perversely, who forsake the paths of uprightness to walk in the ways of darkness, who rejoice in doing evil and delight in the perverseness of evil; those whose paths are crooked, and who are devious in their ways. (Proverbs 2:6, 12-15)
When we speak of evil, many of us already have a picture in our minds of what evil looks like. For most of us, the leaders of the Third Reich come to mind, along with Stalin and several other dictators who did terrifying things to their people. That is blatant evil. It is easy to identify that perverseness has so infiltrated a human’s thought process and way of being that they almost cannot choose anything other than the most frighteningly pain-provoking option.
What we do not like to admit is that we also want to paint other people as evil. Those who look, believe, speak, act, and think differently than we do – some of them must surely be under the influence of evil, too… Right?
If we remember that sin is to break God’s commandments – specifically Jesus’ two commandments to love God and love our neighbor as ourselves – then how does evil fit in? Evil is the piece that goes beyond mere sin to an insidiously sneaky and overpowering level. A basic definition is that evil is what is against God.
That being said, there are some provisos that should be considered.
The main caveat is that all people – yes ALL – are made in the image of God. All of us were created good. Though the fallen world may infiltrate us from a very young age, no human being is ever truly evil. Systems are evil. Actions and words can be evil. But humans cannot be in their inmost nature that reflects the God we serve.
Why does this matter? Because we are human and we are always looking for someone to blame. The easiest target is the great Tempter himself – but note that neither Job nor Jesus blamed Satan for his influence or trials. They understood their own agency in their decisions.
The next simplest target are fellow humans that are different than us. Now, some people do purely represent the vision Proverbs will depict in our passage this weekend – those who have allowed evil to become so intricately interwoven into their souls that they will always be prone to be perverse, crooked and devious. Most of the time, though, we want to blame any number of groups of people who are not like us.
The short response to such thoughts, words, and actions on our part is: STOP it. It is sin to do so. And it is evidence of how much we have resigned ourselves to the evil infiltrating our own beings.
What God has called us to do is to take responsibility to see perversity, crooked ways, and devious dealings eradicated. In short, we are to take part in the battle against evil. But never by turning on one another.
One of my professors and Civil Rights Activists, Dr. James Lawson, once said, “Love is our only weapon.” We are to do all things in love. To hold one another and our leaders accountable for the hurt we cause. To love those who the world and especially the church casts out. To stand with the oppressed and to comfort those in need. We are to do these things and more because as followers of Christ, our job is to live into the very best of who we are and to fight against the very worst we can become.
As we tackle the problem of evil this Sunday in one of our last installments of our Summer Sermon Series on the Lord’s Prayer, my hope is that we will all be open to God’s presence at work among us.