We all know that both good and evil exist in our world. We are taught from early childhood that some things are bad, and some are good. We are taught as children that we need to develop an ability to distinguish between good and evil. As we grow up, we are cautioned to be alert to circumstances around us so we might avoid evil and choose to associate with what is good.
But when I ask individuals if they have a difficult time discerning good from evil, they often reply, “Yes, I do. There’s a lot of ‘gray’ in the world today.”
Most seem to agree about certain types of evil. It’s wrong for a parent to abandon a child or to abuse a child physically, sexually, or emotionally. It’s wrong for suicide bombers to blow up innocent people. It’s wrong for a person to kill another person in cold blood or to torture another person.
There are a host of things that are immediately and universally labeled as wrong—demonstrating racial prejudice, having blind hatred for someone, embezzling or mismanaging corporate funds, cheating on a test, lying, failing to help a person in need when you have means to help, stealing, committing adultery, exhibiting road rage, engaging in a drive-by shooting, kidnapping, raping, drinking to excess, using illegal drugs, and carrying out many other bad behaviors and holding on to wrong-thinking attitudes.
We can look at certain situations and recognize an aspect of evil embedded in them—for example, a wasting, painful disease; suffering of all kinds; world hunger; abject poverty; intense persecution of good people; or deep agony over the loss of a child. We may not be able to pinpoint the exact nature or cause of the evil, but we sense that the bad situation has an element of darkness to it. We recognize that things are not as they should be in a perfect world.
We are quick to label all of these actions, attitudes, and conditions as being marked indelibly by evil. But then comes the difficult question: “Is the person who committed this evil act or holds a wrong attitude an evil person?”
“Well, now,” people say as they backpedal into justification, “the person is probably good deep down inside. He didn’t really mean to do what he did—he’s just a product of his upbringing, his culture, or his fanatical religion. He just got blinded temporarily by greed or lust. The person didn’t know what he was doing—he was temporarily insane.”
We often conclude, “People are good, but their behaviors are bad.” We may even say, “We love and hold out hope for the sinner, but the sin is bad.”
All of that may be true, but what do you do when evil strikes you?
What do you say and how do you respond when you are the victim of spousal abuse, the object of a terrorist’s actions, or the one badly injured by a drunk driver?
What do you do when your loved one is held hostage, your child is abused by an adult you and your child trusted, you come home to find your home burglarized, or you receive the diagnosis of a terminal disease?
How do you discern good from evil when you are the one who is the victim of an evil attack?
Charles F. Stanley, When the Enemy Strikes: The Keys to Winning Your Spiritual Battles (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2004), 1–2.
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