The conflict between good and evil is not a drama akin to that which John Milton described in Paradise Lost, written in 1674, long before the Holocaust or the atom was split. It’s a contemporary battle that is played out in business, politics, science, and human relations. Today’s world is one of disjunction, turmoil, conflict, inner frustration, and selfishness. The battle is not just out there, either. It’s within—the constant conflict between what you know is right and what feels good; between what is just and what will get you what you desire which you know is wrong.
As long as it’s “out there” somewhere, it’s not quite so bad because you can point your finger and decry the conduct of others; but when you smite your breast and cry out, “God, why did I do something so evil?” it is another matter. Frankly, when it becomes personal the issue of evil in our world makes us very uncomfortable.
Evil is not a twentieth-century phenomenon, but an old one going back to our first family in the Garden of Eden. Harold Lindsell lived through most of the turbulent twentieth century, but he’s convinced the problems didn’t begin with the onslaught of nationalism in Hitler’s Germany but in the Garden, long ago.
He writes, “In Eden’s Paradise no human predicament existed. Created after the image of God, man walked in fellowship and harmony with and in obedience to his Creator. But Adam chose his own will instead of God’s and plunged the entire human race into moral and spiritual degradation. This evil choice created the human predicament. Sowing the wind of disobedience, man reaped the whirlwind of spiritual suicide. Today he is totally unable to solve the mass of problems occasioned by his initial revolt.”
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. Matthew 6:13
In the words “Adam chose his own will instead of God’s” we find the heart of the dilemma that confronts us today. Do we choose our will or what God wills? The very issue brings into focus the fact that God is not a disinterested spectator who resides far away in heaven but a participant in the battle for the minds and wills of humankind.
There is another player in the drama of good and evil, and some thirteen times the Bible speaks of this one as “the evil one.” He is also described as the devil, or Lucifer, from a Latin word meaning “light-bearer.”
Jesus instructed the disciples to pray, “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one” (Matthew 6:13). In the Garden, immediately before He went to the cross, Jesus also prayed that God would protect His own from the evil one (see John 17:15).
This one who was described as being evil led our first parents astray in the Garden of Eden and ever since then, he has used his influence in the lives of us mortals who daily face the choices of good and evil.
“But the Lord is faithful,” wrote Paul to the saints at Thessalonica, adding, “and he will strengthen and protect you from the evil one” (2 Thessalonians 3:3).
When asked why he had done wrong, a little boy told his mother, “I hear a voice saying, ‘Do it!” and another voice saying, ‘Don’t do it!’ “And which voice is louder?” asked his mother. “Whichever one tells me the same thing that I want to do!” says the lad.
That’s the human predicament. You must decide in the battle of good and evil, and with your decision comes the responsibility for your choice. Choose wisely, for your choice will reach far beyond today and to the future.
Resource reading: 2 Thessalonians 3:1-5
Featured image: The Garden of Eden with the Fall of Man by Jan Brueghel the Elder and Pieter Paul Rubens, c. 1615, depicting both domestic and exotic wild animals such as tigers, parrots and ostriches co-existing in the garden.