The Christian Response to Evil
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
One of the seven woes issued by God to His people is “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil” (Isaiah 5:20). Woe means impending distress or gloom.
God’s word is the standard of good and goodness. Jesus said, “No one is good except God alone” (Luke 18:19). We also know that “for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).
Both good and evil represent actions, behavior. They are moral categories. Good and evil are not created beings. In fact, evil is rightly understood as the deprivation or absence of good, as St. Augustine said.
As a Christian I am always amazed by the depth of man’s evil. When I see it from afar my heart burns. John Calvin, the great reformer of the 16th Century, wrote, “All who really serve and love God, ought to burn with holy indignation whenever they see wickedness reigning without restraint among men.” The Psalmist wrote, “O you who love the LORD, hate evil!” (Psalm 97:10a).
The Bible declares that those who know God are to hate evil. The Bible also puts forth a standard of Christian behavior that exhorts believers never to return evil for evil and to love our enemies (Matthew 5:43ff; Romans 12:17ff; 1 Peter 3:9). On the surface these two teachings seem to contradict each other. We know that the Bible is altogether true. There are no contradictions. God does not contradict Himself. So then there must be two different things being expressed concerning evil.
The difference in calling for loving enemies on the one hand and hating evil on the other is a matter of context. God’s exhortation to love enemies is directed to those in the church who find themselves under the hand of evil men. They are the ones experiencing evil firsthand. The primary response of believers to evil and persecution is to “give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all” (Romans 12:17). Peter used the word “bless” to describe the response of those in the church who find themselves under the hand of evil men (1 Peter 3:9).
Concerning those of who profess Christ and see evil from afar, Thomas Aquinas saw two Christian duties. The first is to combat it by every means and the second is to believe that God will vanquish it according to the perfect (but hidden) wisdom of His providence. Aquinas’ reflection on the issue of responding to evil reflects the Bible’s exhortation to hate evil. The Prophet Amos wrote, “Hate evil, and love good, and establish justice in the gate” (Amos 5:15).
When evil occurs, there are always those who admonish Christians who are outraged and use the Bible to call for loving enemies. Christians are to love all men. Christians are also to be people who stand for truth and justice. Micah 6:8 says, “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”
Believers in the Risen Lord Jesus are never to “wink” at evil. Christians are not to respond with a man-centered idea of love. Often this response is recommended by those who haven’t actually been the objects of evil. We worship a holy God. He is holy and He is love. He defined love in the cross of Christ. When you see evil done on others, seek justice. Know that God will pour out His wrath upon all evil and wickedness.
It is never right to spiritualize a response to evil. Evil is real, but evil is not a thing. It is behavior that opposes God. As stated above, the short definition of evil is the absence of good. The Apostle John wrote, “Beloved, do not imitate evil but imitate good. Whoever does good is from God; whoever does evil has not seen God” (3 John 11).
The Christian response to evil is two-fold. First, Christians respond to evil by doing good. Second, Christians are called to expose evil, simply to recognize what is evil and expose it.
When evil is observed, expose it and do that which is good, right, and true knowing that God will execute perfect justice when Christ returns. Everything hinges on knowing what is good. Therefore, the Church is responsible to teach the truth of God and the Person and Work of Christ.
The Christian Response to Evil