What Is Evil?


There are some things we would all agree with as being the epitome of evil. Serial killing, sex trafficking, murdering the innocent and helpless, and vicious brutality would all be in the category of “evil.”

But what if some work of the devil is much more subtle? What if we tolerate or even participate without even realizing that what we are thinking, doing, or accepting is actually evil?

In the book of Acts in the Bible, in the fourteenth chapter, we can see some of these subtleties of evil in Luke’s account of the apostles’ journeys and activities. It tells of how Paul and Barnabus were teaching in the Jewish synagogue—a place we would consider peaceful and full of kindness—and many people were encouraged and believed what they taught.

But then there were those who acted badly, and eventually, even viciously.

Here’s how we know they were being used of Satan to subtly perpetrate evil.

  • They refused to believe. Everyone can choose to believe or not. God doesn’t force anyone to receive his love. But the word “refused” reveals a heart of rebellion, not simply disinterest.
  • They stirred up the crowd. Specifically, they targeted the Gentiles who were different than them. Can anyone say “racism?” They were causing distrust and doubt among people groups.
  • They poisoned people’s minds against their brothers. We’re not talking siblings here, but other members of the same group of people being turned against each other. Sowing dissension, division, and hatred.
  • They plotted to mistreat the men who were teaching. It’s interesting that the people plotting were from both groups—a portion of the Jews and Gentiles came together to cause harm together.
  • They attracted people from other towns to create a mob. Then this mob stoned Paul and left him for dead.

Sound like anything we’ve seen or heard of lately?

Here’s the thing about what Paul and Barnabus were doing. It was all good. No one was forced to agree with them or believe what they taught. They simply shared what they knew—what they had experienced for themselves.

No threats. No violence.

The Bible says they:

  • Spoke effectively.
  • Spent considerable time with the people.
  • Confirmed their message with miracles.
  • Ran away from trouble.
  • Healed a crippled man.
  • Were humble and never claimed to be any better than any other person.
  • Spoke of God’s kindness, provision, and joy.
  • Strengthened and encouraged people.
  • Prayed for people.

Hmm…

It seems pretty clear when it’s examined like that, doesn’t it?

Maybe there are four groups of people.

Some may, for whatever reason, choose to perpetrate evil acts. Others may subtly, in their hearts, refuse any message of good and therefore create hatred. Perhaps there are those, who without realizing it, are sowing seeds of dissension and division, setting brother against each other—or by their participation are allowing it.

The last group are those who choose love and kindness. They show grace for others and speak truth in love with acceptance. Sometimes that may mean not to speak at all or to speak about something encouraging and hopeful. Changing the subject can be a loving strategy.

Tolerance and acceptance doesn’t mean ignoring and allowing evil.

We can accept that everyone has a choice to believe what they want, and we can honor them by not demanding they agree with our choices. But if someone chooses to act in a way that will harm another, we can also step in and take action to protect. Not to defend our position, but certainly to defend someone’s life.

Paul chose to return to the people even after they stoned him. He claimed that we would endure hardship for the kingdom of God and was willing to put his life on the line.

So, where are we? In which group do we find ourselves?

Is it possible that we are ignorantly participating in evil without realizing it or considering the cost?

Or are we loving people and showing them kindness? The Bible says it’s God’s kindness that leads to repentance (Romans 2:4), and that the anger of man will not bring about the righteousness of God (James 1:20). How are we doing with that?

The disciples were able to live showing kindness to others while they shared their testimony of what they’d seen and heard because they were filled with the Holy Spirit and joy.

I want to be like them. Like Jesus.

How about you?

Why Perspective Matters


perspective

Did you see snow on mountain tops or sand on beach rocks?

I took this picture at the beach, and I still think of snowy alps nearly every time I see the photo in my gallery.

Interesting, isn’t it?

A couple of days ago, I was driving somewhere and pulled up next to a car at a stop light. The car had an Indiana license plate, but at first glance I thought it said Nevada. As a matter of fact, I absolutely believed, in that initial moment, that the car was from Nevada. (Could it be because I lived in Nevada for 10 years?)

Until I took a second look.

How can we be so convinced that the way we see something is actually the way it is when it isn’t? My children were all raised in the same household, but each of them remembers incidents the others don’t, or from a different angle. Kind of like the movie Vantage Point in which we watch a plot unfold from several different angles.

What affects our perspective?

  • Exhaustion – the day I saw the Indiana plates I had little sleep and much stress
  • Anxiety – seeing life through anxiety places a filter of fear over every situation
  • Age – a three year old and sixty year old will have a vastly different perspective
  • Culture – a thumbs up here in the States is positive, but elsewhere it’s an insult
  • Point of View – asking my grandchild seated in a stroller if he can see what I see over a fence is kind of pointless, right?
  • Attitude – are you a half-full or half-empty kinda guy?
  • Preconceived concepts – our values and beliefs become ingrained in us
  • Experiences in life – each joy filled or painful circumstance defines how we will perceive the next similar situation

Everything we process is in relation to all of these things in our mind, heart and life.

No wonder people experiencing the same situation can have vastly different perspectives of what has happened. Granted, perhaps we can agree on general absolutes like the color red. But even as I write red, what color comes to mind? Tomato? Strawberry? Cherries?

I’ve been trying to wrap my mind around this concept.

I know what is in my heart or mind when I do, say or see something, but what if the next person has an opposite view of my action, words or vision? Is one wrong and the other right?

Or are they both right?

2 + 2 = 4   seems pretty absolute and concrete to me. And I, by nature, tend to see things pretty black and white. But my math-loving husband might throw a variable in there and contest that even numbers can change it up. (Unless they’re absolute numbers, right? But now we are in a realm for which I have limited perspective.)

So, how do we handle perspective?

My go to reference is the Bible. Here are a few things I’m learning and working on:

  1. Speak truth in love. My perspective is my truth, but I can present it kindly.
  2. Consider others’ interests not only mine. Their view is their truth so listen to them.
  3. Respecting each other honors Christ. Humility benefits us both.
  4. Be honest with myself. I may not see the whole picture.
  5. Don’t assume. I’m not someone else so even if I think I know what they feel, I don’t.

In the end, only God sees everything. The entire world, universe without time and distance is his. He can see from every angle and into every heart and mind. The Psalmist said,

Before a word is on my tongue, you know it completely, O Lord.”  Psalm 139:4

That’s good news, because I can ask him to help me see as he does. From his perspective. He says if we lack wisdom (his way of thinking) we can ask him, and he’ll give it to us. And even better is that he can transform us by renewing our minds – changing our perspective.

The brief moment when I had an inaccurate perception about the car with the Indiana license plate didn’t matter in the big picture of life, but when my spouse or kids or friends and I think differently it can cause turmoil if we can’t tolerate and accept each other’s view of things. Even if we don’t agree.

Even now in our world, huge battles are taking place because of perspective.

Their perspective is true. My perspective is true. But only God’s perspective is 100% accurate.

What is your perspective about this blog post?