Links Daily Devotional

The Other Problem of Evil

Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil but what is good. Anyone who does what is good is from God. Anyone who does what is evil has not seen God. (3 John 11, NIV)

There are three kinds of bounces in golf. First, there is the predictable bounce, when a ball does pretty much what we expect it to do. Then there is what we wryly call “the member’s bounce,” for those times when the ball kicks in a favorable direction, often away from threatening trouble. But our focus of the day is the wicked bounce, when a ball bounds severely, finding trouble we probably did not deserve.

Wicked is a word we don’t so much mind using in games, where its application is hardly serious. But start employing that word or its twin, the word evil, in other contexts and you may be in for some heavy discussion.

Evil is on display every time someone does something displeasing to God.You may be aware that “the problem of evil” is not only a most common hang-up among those who say they do not believe in God, but it can also cause faith jitters among those who want to hold fast to their belief in him. By this expression we mean that when we look around the world, we see terrible things happening, and we cannot understand why “a good God” would not intervene.

The most common explanation for evil, or wickedness, in the world is that when Adam and Eve ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil—a small act that looked like anything but a grave error—sin in all its capacities was introduced into the world. And while it is true that God in his compassion and power could incessantly step in and prevent the consequences of all these innumerable sins, he has chosen instead to use our sins to open our eyes to our need for his grace, which he purchased by calling on his Son Jesus to endure the most wretched evil imaginable.

Of course, when we step back and look at the headlines—be they in the newspaper or in our social media circles—we discover not eyes open to sin but hearts bent on it. One evil feeds another rather than sending people running for grace.

This is not new. When we run down the catalogue of kings in the Old Testament, we often encounter this description: “He did evil in the eyes of the LORD his God” (1 Chronicles 36:5 & 12, as examples).

What this provides for us beyond the recognition of this problem as an enduring one is the awareness that evil is far more common than we’d care to admit. It is on display every time someone does something displeasing to God. We cannot say, “Oh, this sin won’t affect anyone, really”—not when the simple eating of a tree fruit set us all on the pathway to death.

God is still in his place above all and still desiring us to live according to his words. When we willingly go another direction, we do evil in his sight, no matter how “small” the act. The greater problem of evil is ours. Marvelously, there is grace for us when we recognize the problem in ourselves and turn our hearts to Jesus. Without that turning, we are as guilty as the kings of old.

Jeff Hopper
August 22, 2016
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