When we go to the movies, it is often fairly easy to identify the villain. Darth Vader is tall, dressed all in black and force-chokes anyone who gets in his way. The Joker is maniacal, cruel and ruthless. Hannibal Lecter eats people for fun. Their evil is over-the top, their viciousness inescapable, and most people have little difficulty looking at them and thinking that there before them is one truly evil individual in need of getting caught and punished.
And yet, in real life, evil is all around us and we frequently fail to identify it as such. In fact, we grow so accustomed to certain things that we simply take evil things for granted and accept them as somewhat normal. We can even go so far as to think that evil is not just normal – but the way things should be.
The prophet Isaiah wrote, “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” (Isaiah 5:20; ESV) Such a warning was necessary because Isaiah could see, in the culture around him, individuals doing evil things and thinking that those things were not only acceptable, but good.
Evil is defined, at its most basic, as something undesirable and harmful. It is the opposite of that which is good. Sometimes, in the Bible, the word is used to refer to some natural tragedy which brings suffering. Most often, it is a term which denotes spiritual actions which are contrary to the good actions God wants us to have.
Elsewhere in the Scriptures, the apostle Paul was inspired to note that in a world in which God was rejected, men were filled with “all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice.” (Romans 1:29a) This evil that Paul observed, the things that God considered evil, included such things as murder and lies, but also included not listening to parents, gossip, and boasting. Similarly, in writing to the Galatians, the wise apostle warned against the “works of the flesh,” which include such things as adultery and drunkenness.
Sometimes it is easy to see the evil in what men do. When a man gets drunk and abuses his wife and children, we understand the evil there, because we can see the immediate harm in it. When we see murder, or muggings, or the like, we feel fewer compunctions about calling it like it is, and identifying the actions as evil and wrong. But when we do not see the immediate harm, or when we don’t dislike the person doing the deed, we have a harder time calling a thing evil. It becomes, to us, a matter of perspective. We want to justify it and excuse it. Sometimes we even want to argue that it is in fact proper and good for the things done to have been done.
Yet, for those who love God, and care about the things of God, good and evil are not defined by our day to day judgments, rather we should let ourselves be informed by the standards of God. Thus, the word of God, given by inspiration of God is useful in teaching us about what is right, but also in correcting us when we go wrong. (cf. 2 Timothy 3:16)
Sin is always evil. We read concerning the nation of Judah in the Bible, “Judah did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, and they provoked him to jealousy with their sins that they committed.” (1 Kings 14:22; ESV) King David, filled with remorse confessed to God, “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight.” (Psalm 51:4a; ESV)
Every lie we tell is evil in the sight of God, even if we do not see the immediate harm in it. Every time we get drunk or high, we are participating in evil. When we cheat on our spouses, it is evil. All these things are evil in the sight of God because the do damage to the people around us, they do damage to our own selves, and they do damage to our relationship with God. The further and further we continue into these sins, the more evil we become. We might not resemble the villains we see in the movie, those caricatures of evil and malice, but we should not deceive ourselves into thinking our sins are benign and nobody is getting hurt.
In Christian doctrine, the seriousness of sins is seen in the price God was willing to pay to provide atonement for the sins of those who came to Him in faith and repented of their sins. It was the suffering and death of His Son upon the cross. Through that death, Jesus offers forgiveness and salvation from the evil of this world and pleads with us to accept it (cf. Acts 2:40; Galatians 1:4)
The seriousness of sins is further seen in the penalty applied to those who do not obtain salvation. The wages of sin is death. (Romans 6:23) When we sin, God, the great Judge of men, treats us as villains in need of redemption. If we are wise, we will heed the judge’s warning and accept His proffered solution. There is salvation for those willing to take it.
If you are interested in learning more of what the Bible teaches about the salvation of Christ, the church of Christ invites you to study and worship with us at 234 Chapel Drive, Gallipolis, Ohio. Likewise, if you have any questions, please share them with us through our website: chapelhillchurchofchrist.org.
Jonathan McAnulty is minister of Chapel Hill Church of Christ.