This is the first post in a series on Good and Evil.
There is good. There is evil. Really.
And it’s not that simple. Really.
Some people insist that a bright line separates good and evil. There is a war going on between two opposing forces. People stand on one side or another of that line.
For instance, I once presided at the funeral of a murdered police officer. During his remarks, the Chief of Police said that there are good people and evil people and that police officers form the barrier protecting us good people from unimaginably malevolent forces.
Progressive and postmodern intellectuals usually view this sort of talk as unsophisticated. They classify it as black and white thinking.
Life, they believe, is composed of various shades of grey. Good and evil are labels arising from fear of difference and a desire to control. Moral reasoning is a tool of oppression and marginalization.
An enlightened mind is Beyond Good and Evil, to borrow the title of the postmodern prophet Friedrich Nietzsche’s famous work.
While many Christian individuals sincerely believe some variation on these two extreme views of good and evil, it’s not what Jesus taught.
Let’s start by hearing Jesus himself out. The following parable is often called the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares (or Weeds):
He put before them another parable: ‘The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field; but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well. And the slaves of the householder came and said to him, “Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where, then, did these weeds come from?” He answered, “An enemy has done this.” The slaves said to him, “Then do you want us to go and gather them?” But he replied, “No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. Let both of them grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.” ’ (Matt. 13:24-30)
The parable clearly distinguishes between wheat and weeds, good and evil. At the time of harvest, God himself will sort them out. We humans lack the necessary skill or the permission to eradicate evil.
And here’s why.
In a wheat field the root systems of wheat and weeds become so intertwined that to uproot the weeds involves uprooting and destroying the wheat. Good and evil are so bound up with each other in ordinary human existence that we cannot eradicate the one without destroying the other.
This is a far cry from saying that there is no black and white, that all is grey. Instead, it’s a clear acknowledgement that each and every one of us is mix of wheat and weeds.
As Christians, we are to resist evil. (Ephesians 6:12; James 4:7; 1 Peter 5:9) And yet we do so not as people who have achieved righteousness by the power of our own will. In fact, each of us struggles with some sort of evil within us. (Romans 7:19)
The Cross of Christ redeems us. God has shown us mercy. We struggle with evil not as self-made righteous warriors with license to wreak havoc but as redeemed sinners learning the power of God’s mercy.
In the posts to follow we will look at the nature of good and evil, the power of the Cross, Satan, the Second Coming, and our role in resisting evil. At various points I will draw on the Revelation to John.