Intersection of Life and Faith

3 Truths Christians Don't Understand about Evil

  • Liberty University Sponsored Article
  • 2015 29 Jul
3 Truths Christians Don't Understand about Evil

He’d spent months as a living dead man. Engulfed in the sorrow of a cemetery, covered in the mud from the graves and caves, he broke the chains meant to bind him and raged at those who came to mourn. He stumbled about naked and terrified—unable to return to his home. Even though he could snap the metal, he couldn’t snap free from the army—the one that held him captive from the inside out.

Until Jesus came.

With the fury and fear of those condemned to certain destruction, the legion of evil that twisted this man fled. This group of demons knew the Son of the Most High God, and He knew the truth about them.

But can we say the same? For many Christians today, evil is a topic we know the Bible talks about, but we don’t necessarily understand the truths written there. Perhaps fear keeps us from looking into the specifics—fear that we’ll somehow be captivated by the darkness if we look too closely. Or perhaps we prefer not to talk about something that seems so metaphysical in our “age of science and reason.”

The Bible, though, doesn’t shy away from this important topic. As Christians who must not shrink from knowing the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27), we need to have a clear, biblical understanding of evil. To help you get started, here are 3 truths every Christian needs to know:

1) Evil Exists

God’s view on this topic isn't popular. For many people, problems in the world boil down to a need for better social structures and better laws. Provide the essential services and the right curbs against bad behavior, and you’d fix all the problems. While those can help, such a myopic view overlooks one biblical essential: evil is real.

From the very beginning, evil showed up to lead people away from God’s plan. Adam and Eve had all the right structures in place to live happily in paradise, and they had the right law to keep them in God’s will. But Satan crashed into the garden and dangled sin in their faces (Genesis 3).

According to Dr. Karen Swallow Prior, professor of English at Liberty University, the reality of this evil can teach us much, as many poets and writers have discovered: 

"The Bible is very clear about the reality of evil in the world and the role Satan has in loosing its force on earth. Some of the world’s greatest literature portrays evil imaginatively in ways that can vividly remind us of its power. One of the best examples is John Milton’s epic poem, Paradise Lost. In it, Milton imagines in dazzling detail the relentless evil and sheer power of Satan and his demons. Reading that work today can help us see how Satan is still employing the same strategies today."

Not heeding these warnings about evil has always produced disastrous results. When God confronted Cain about his evil intentions, He didn’t blame parents or social structures. Instead, He told Cain that “sin [was] crouching at the door” and ready to pounce (Genesis 4). So much did this evil “pounce,” in fact, that only a few generations later, the whole earth swam in it (Genesis 6).

Time and time again, wicked people and evil hearts pop up in the history books, show their rage in the Psalms and Proverbs, and get glimpses of their future in the Prophets. When Jesus arrived on the scene in Bethlehem, He brought the fight to the evil powers and authorities (Ephesians 6:12). That’s why He set the man free who had been tangled up by the legion of demons (Luke 8)

Evil wasn't some primitive way of describing problems in our world. Instead, evil is a reality from the beginning until now.

Advertisement 2) Evil Blinds

So, if there’s evil in the world, how should we respond? Well, in a way, you could say that the reality of evil should make us Christians more compassionate. Here’s why:

“Satan, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe. They are unable to see the glorious light of the Good News. They don't understand this message about the glory of Christ, who is the exact likeness of God.” (2 Corinthians 4:4, NLT)

Jesus said that the evil one comes and “snatches away” the seed of the gospel in those who don’t understand it (Matthew 13:19). They’ve been willingly bamboozled by the enemy and don’t realize that they’re blind.

That’s where the compassion comes in. Our fight as Christians isn't against the people who do evil things. While they have no excuse for missing the obvious signs of God’s existence (Romans 1:20), they’re not the enemy:

“For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12, NLT)

The light of the church shines brightest when we compassionately share the truth into the darkness—even if it means suffering for it (1 Peter 4:16).

3) Evil Hurts… for Now

Warnings about us suffering for being followers of Jesus should come as no surprise. Paul, Peter, James, Stephen—they all faced the reality of evil in this world. And that evil hurt.

In the present age, we know that Jesus has won the victory to set people free from evil, but we have yet to see that promise completely fulfilled. We see the hints of light on the horizon, but we don’t yet see the sun. Here and now, we face the reality of wickedness and sometimes feel its sting. But even in the midst of that, we have no need to worry.

Here’s how Paul puts it:

“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” 2 Corinthians 4:8–9

Evil throws us around, presses in, and knocks us down. Evil may trample on our rights and refuse to offer mercy. Evil may even laugh in triumph over us—but only for now.

While the pain in our age is real, it fades away to a pale nothing in comparison to the glory that’s set to break out (Romans 8:18). All this evil-caused pain will vanish and be replaced by something so much greater that our brains can only guess at the beauty (1 Corinthians 2:12; 2 Thessalonians 1:7).

While we remain here, we can also find solace in other ways, as Dr. Prior points out:

"Art arises out of suffering. It is small consolation for the real evil that is in the world, but art and literature are the pearls formed from the grit and slime of sin. Until Jesus returns, we can explore and seek to understand one another’s suffering through the pictures of redemption found in good stories."

Our ultimate comfort arises from remembering this truth: The evil hurts—but Jesus will come again.

Written by John UpChurch, Senior Editor, Sponsored by Liberty University, training champions for Christ since 1971; and Liberty University Online, the largest Christian university in the world with over 200 online programs.

Publication date: July 29, 2015