I never wonder to see men wicked, but I often wonder to see them not ashamed. -Jonathan Swift
Children often pose difficult questions by simply asking ‘why’. Our daughter is currently four and is satisfied with the current, simple answers that we offer her, sometimes in haste but usually befuddled ourselves, seeking to give her something that’s pragmatic, concrete and to the point. She has yet to develop an understanding of the abstract. The spiritual world is a mystery to her and as her faith grows, so too her understanding . . . but still, why evil?
It’s a good question that we’ve all wrestled with, especially when evil’s afoot in our neighborhoods and households. In Paul’s epistle to the Romans, he tackles the issue head on and right out of the gate:
God shows his anger from heaven against all sinful, wicked people who suppress the truth by their wickedness. They know the truth about God because he has made it obvious to them (1:18-19).
For Paul, evil happens because people choose to reject God. This is a willful act, not one born out of ignorance, done in spite of God’s revelation of His “eternal power and divine nature” through creation (v. 20b). Many of the Ancient’s, like Paul, understood that everything has an efficient cause; that is, a creator. Aristotle outlined all that is within the tenants of the four causes: material, formal, efficient, and final. If God is rejected then so too are the last causes, which then depletes our understanding of good and evil to mean survival. If Materialism is all there is then the material universe is its own efficient. Merely existing or survival is then the standard of good and evil. It’s definitely part of a working definition but not the totality of it.
Being human isn’t only about survival - we yearn for more. Paul understood this and worked out some of the behaviors that would accompany the godless soul:
Their lives became full of every kind of wickedness, sin, greed, hate, envy, murder, quarreling, deception, malicious behavior, and gossip. They are backstabbers, haters of God, insolent, proud, and boastful. They invent new ways of sinning, and they disobey their parents. They refuse to understand, break their promises, are heartless, and have no mercy (v. 29-31).
It should be noted that some have pretended to believe and have lived godless in the past and that some believers have succumbed to temptation. There will always be hypocrites and failures. We all are always in need of God’s grace and the grace of others, for not only do we fail to live up to God’s ways but our own. We regularly act against our conscience and trip others up (purposefully and accidentally). And why . . . because we ultimately choose to.
But we can choose otherwise.
1 John 2:2 says, “He himself is the sacrifice that atones for our sins - and not only our sins but the sins of all the world.” Our step away from God and into evil always leads us away from the Author of life. Take steps towards God today by trusting Jesus with your thoughts and actions. Trust Him with your life and receive, life!