Thoughts on the Way Home

Monday, June 16, 2008

Seeing Evil

At times the seeing the evil that is in the world can kind of jar you around. Taking it in and really processing it can be both bad and good. We are supposed to dwell on good things (Phil. 4:8), and not bad things. And yet, I think if we spend a lot of time around the body of Christ, and somehow isolate ourselves from the world, we can start to forget how bad things really are. The bible will shape us and remind us of evil. But seeing it in our present day setting in life and history can also be stirring and create the kind of groaning we should have (Ezk. 9:4).

- - -

Hearing about a group of young men murdering homeless people had this effect on me about a year ago. Apparently they went around finding homeless men to beat to death with baseball bats for no reason at all, other than their own sinful passions.

Seeing a man in Best Buy the other day had this effect on me. He had his daughter (I assume) in the shopping cart. She was crying and he was mad, really mad. His face was full of anger. And he kept saying through clenched teeth "Shut up... ... I said shut up." In the time it took him to pass by the area I was in, he probably said it about 6 or 7 times. She was crying and looking around for help. It really grieved me.

Reading about present circumstances in Uganda a while back really stirred me up too. You can read about it here and here, but I warn you, it is pretty barbarous. The short version is that people there are being horribly murdered, raped, and forced into sexual slavery by a rebel/cult group. It made things more believable and close to home when I watched a video from Action International Ministries where they mention their ministry to women who have come out of this sexual slavery (the video is at the bottom of the page).

The rampant and manifest evil in Uganda is nothing new either. In the 70s there was a man named Idi Amin who under his regime had around 300,000 people within his country murdered and disposed of in the Nile river.

- - -

But, in thinking about all this, and doing a bit of research (hesitantly, but feeling compelled), there was something that I thought was telling as to why many times we need to be jarred into reality on the presence of evil in our world. I'll quote Barbet Schroeder (in broken English), a videographer who did an up close and personal documentary of Idi Amin:

"I always was fascinating trying to understand the nature of evil and how does it work. How somebody evil actually is, and Amin Dada is very interesting because he is somebody extremely charming. He is very funny. And there is an innocence in him that is totally disarming, and there is a life force and an innocence that is extraordinary, and at the same time you know that this is a face of evil ... (at this point the camera queues a picture of Amin's charming smile)."

I have to admit. I watched the documentary. What the man says above is true. I mean, I know better than to think of people as "innocent," but nevertheless Amin was very warm, funny, and happy. If the video wouldn't have started off with a brief scene with a firing squad I would have probably thought I checked out the wrong video from the library. This man's state as a manifest sinner was on the surface deceptive.

But that's just it. Sin is deceptive (Heb. 3:13). Evil and sin are bound up in the heart of every person born in Adam not just the people that stand out as being "really bad." It is all-pervasive.

Here is why I think, in part, sin often flies under the radar. For one thing, there are many good and praiseworthy things still left in the world. And there are traces of the grace and the image of God in humanity (like being warm, smiling, and having a funny side). For another thing, when people get used to living a life of sin, it becomes that much more easy to justify or just flat out ignore. Just like a fish ignoring the water it swims in. We breathe sin in and out as a race (Gen. 6:5). Therefore a man's way begins to "seem right" to him. So sometimes it takes something really awful and horrifying to remind us that sin really is real and has to be explained.

May the Holy Spirit not let our minds be lulled into a blind stupor about the reality of sin and evil that is all around us, and is condemning every person on the face of the earth to judgment.