What do we do about evil?

CC Prakash Singh/AFP/Getty NCMy new book project launched me this morning into Paul’s letter to the church at Rome, where in 1:19-32 the apostle confronted me with the profound truth that even though people know the reality of Creator God, they nonetheless refuse to acknowledge him, and indulge themselves in the worst kinds of depravity.

Moments later, I am reading a Hindustan Times news article about a young woman in Delhi, India, who is fighting for her life after being brutally gang-raped on a bus, and her male companion savagely beaten, as the vehicle drove through the city’s streets. The Dec. 18 Wall Street Journal carried a first-person article by a single woman in Delhi who is both angered and terrified by the incident. She wants to live her non-traditional, Western-style life in peace and hates that the streets of her city are unsafe even for women accompanied by a man.

Rivers of (digital) ink about “the problem of evil” have been flowing in the United States since a young man slaughtered 20 children and six adults at an elementary school Dec. 14. The appalling attack in Delhi reinforces the painful truth: The human heart, though we prefer to think otherwise, is a dark, dark place. If a person thinks he can get away with it, he will do what he wants.

The “problem of evil” is not questioning why a loving God would allow bad things to happen. The problem of evil is why otherwise ordinary people choose to follow their dark impulses — and what does it take to create a society where people choose to do good instead?

When evil takes on flesh — Adam Lanza in Newtown or the rapist thugs in Delhi — our leaders instinctively call for the same tired, ineffective measures humanity has been implementing for millennia. For some, justice is about punishing evildoers, and Delhi’s halls echo with threats of dire consequences for the wicked accused. For others, justice is more about well-being — accomplished with more laws and better enforcement. In the aftermath of the Newtown massacre, everyone from city councilmen to the President is rushing to beef up gun control and mental health laws.

More laws and better enforcement, however, will never deter wicked men from dastardly deeds, much less rid the human heart of evil. Punishment is even less adequate a cure.

What we want is for people to be good — and not just the Adam Lanzas and Delhi rapists of the world. We want our neighbors and co-workers to be good. We want our children’s teachers and our civic leaders to be good. We want to be good ourselves — stronger than the everyday selfish temptations that are always getting the better of us.

Secular-minded “progressive” people puzzle over how stubborn a problem evil is in the human heart. Politicians and pundits who put their faith in governmental problem-solving can only blame wrong-headed opposers for their failures.

The truth is far simpler: We don’t need more and better methods of fixing wicked, selfish people. We need new people with new hearts.

The solution also is ridiculously simple: We need to go back to the point where our problem began, as Paul says in Romans 1, in our refusal to acknowledge Creator God for who he is and give him thanks. Do we want people to be dead to evil and live for what is right? Do we want to see all these old things gone and everything made completely new? Don’t start scripting a new episode of Law & Order. Humility before God and gratitude for his offer of new life is the place to start.

Unfortunately, transformation can’t be delivered from the top down. The law kills, and more laws only kill you deader. The politicians can’t deliver on their promise of hope and change. New communities where justice reigns are made up of new people — and that happens one heart at a time. A dark house is filled with light, room by room.

What do we do about evil? Darkness flees from light. You know about light. You are light. Look around you. Do what light does.


About Mark Kelly

Jesus follower, Bible reader, husband/father/son/brother/uncle, rider, hiker, snapshooter
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2 Responses to What do we do about evil?

  1. kimberlee2012 says:

    It’s a Heart Issue
    My heart is broken over the senseless tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut. I was in an elementary school at the very moment the shots began last Friday drinking in the innocence of our students as they played holiday music in their orchestra, completely unaware of the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School. In the time since, I’ve been in deep thought, prayer, tears, and discussion all while still trying to live life. I’m sure you can relate.
    Our hearts and minds want to make sense of this and we’ve got some anger to be expressed. For some, the anger is directed at the NRA and/or conservative lawmakers. For others the anger is directed toward the mental health system, parents, the media, the shooter and his family. Others are livid with God. Arguments over gun control, school safety measures and mental health reform have erupted fueled by hurt, anger, dismay, sadness, concern, love, and our deep desire to protect the innocent. We are united again in tragedy and grief, but more divided than ever about solutions and what is right for society in which we live.
    One specific controversy centers around comments made by former Governor of Arkansas, Mike Huckabee and a mother’s open letter in response to his remarks. I heard the Governor make his remarks when asked, “Where was God?” and agreed with him that God’s principles and God’s name have been removed in large part from our culture and society, but not God- never God. I, like Governor Huckabee, know God’s people are everywhere, doing work in every school, hospital, factory, airport, etc. God’s people do his work in every work place, every community, every church. The open letter from a grieving mother who addressed his comments was eloquent and convincing. Her articulation of the events and public reactions hit the mark with many people, even me. My emotions were in overdrive- again. But, we cannot simply react and think with emotion- we must continue to seek truth. This controversy may have begun as one of semantics- God is not missing in our schools and society, but His principles and His Name have been forcibly removed over time.
    The open letter affirms the idea that no one has a problem with God’s people doing His work. It’s common and expected. I wonder then, if the problem is doing God’s work in God’s name while promoting God’s principles. This is what comes under fire. As long as we quietly do the right thing and outwardly support tolerance, we are fine- seen as saintly even. However, when we proclaim God’s will or principles, or worse yet, thank our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ as the reason for our deeds or blessings, we are somehow being offensive, or just plain silly or weak-minded. Christ followers believe that God’s Word is the standard by which we should live our lives and most try diligently to do that. Not for fear of punishment, or for hope of accolade, but truly to share Christ’s love and the power of redemption. Jesus himself said that faith without works is dead. True faith shows itself in love and service to others. Biblical principles helped win our fight for independence, shape our government, and have sustained our nation through troubled times. And through the course of our history, we have seen these principles pushed by the wayside, condemned, and/or outlawed in the public realm.
    Perhaps because God draws clear lines, it has become common to morph God into the kind of God we can believe in, one that we feel “ok” following. Our hearts tend in this direction. This is why, in large part, we have so many Christian sects and divisions, so many religions, gods, and spiritual ideas. The Bible reveals the one true God that I have worked to know better and worship, as He is. This has not been easy, there is much I do not understand and much I would like to protest and change. I too have attempted to make God into a version that I could comfortably live with and talk about. As I’ve come to know Him, however, I have found peace and love- a peace and love to be shared. Because my knowledge and understanding is limited- I am not all knowing, I trust the One who is.
    This God knows the pain of losing a child in a horrific and unjust manner.
    I taught high school in Pennsylvania for 12 years. During that time I encountered God daily in people I worked with AND in students I taught- let’s not forget about the many students who follow God and show His love in a multitude of ways. For these 12 years, I prayed regularly for my students, my peers, our leadership, and our community. I served these groups joyfully because of Christ in me, not because of any special goodness in me. If I’m truthful, sometimes I don’t feel very charitable or loving. I know I’m not any better than anyone else. The difference in me is that I accepted God’s gift of eternal life in Jesus Christ. I confessed my sins and my need for forgiveness- I accepted what was done for me on the cross at Calvary. I’m not better or more deserving of heaven or eternal life than anyone else. Jesus is the only one who has ever conquered death. Because of this, I know those children and beautiful souls are celebrating with him now. I will hug them one day and joyfully participate in their reunions with loved ones. This is the ultimate truth and love of God- He sacrificed his one and only child so that all could come to know Him and truly live. Death has no power over Christ’s followers.
    For those that read this with other religious or world views, I humbly ask that you consider the following: Jesus came for all. Because you may not believe this does not make it untrue. If you don’t believe me, ask Him.
    I humbly submit this with love and a grieving heart. For too long, I’ve allowed the views and writings of others to sadden me, but not made a reply. My reaction was sadness because God is being misunderstood or misrepresented- or worse. My faith is expressing itself in words today to all of you. My faith will continue to take the form of action and deeds meant to encourage others and show the love of God. May He bless you all this holiday season as you seek to understand Him more deeply.

  2. Pingback: Death of gang rape victim sparks widespread protests «

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