There is no doubt that evil exists in the world. Open the morning newspaper or turn on the evening news and evil is everywhere. Can anything be done to change this? What can each of us do help to expel evil from the world? Where do we begin? Find out in today’s message.
The haunting voice of the narrator on the 1930s radio show The Shadow introduced each show with these words: “Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men?” He would then say: “The Shadow knows.” It is so easy to see evil in others. It is a much different story when it comes to accepting that evil exists in us as well. The real-life irony is that we all try to keep whatever evil we recognize within ourselves hidden in the shadows. Coming to grips with the reality that there is evil inside of us makes us utterly aware of our dependence on our Savior.
Volumes have been written throughout the millennia regarding the battle between good and evil. The novella of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, written by Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson made such an impact that the phrase Jekyll and Hyde entered the vernacular as a way to refer to people with an unpredictably dual nature: usually very good, but sometimes shockingly evil instead.
Russian author Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn once wrote, “If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?” He went on to write, “And even within hearts overwhelmed by evil, one small bridgehead of good is retained. And even in the best of all hearts, there remains … an un-uprooted small corner of evil.”
Mark’s Gospel tells us that evil comes from the heart of man. He tells us that evil defiles us. When we as Christians are confronted with this reality of our own evil, we respond differently. Let’s look at three unhealthy responses and one healthy one.
The first unhealthy response is denial and silence. To this point, Solzhenitsyn offers an ominous warning. He writes, “In keeping silent about evil, in burying it so deep within us that no sign of it appears on the surface, we are implanting it, and it will rise up a thousand-fold in the future.” Denial is a result of pride working in concert with evil. They are a deadly combination.
The second unhealthy response is a form of scrupulosity. Often we live with the misguided belief that to be a Christian means we must be perfect. We can begin to see ourselves as the only Christian who is broken. We can fall prey to the belief that everyone else has it all together. This can lead to self-pity.
The third unhealthy response is self-loathing and paralysis. Sometimes we become overly fixated on our faults. When this happens, it can lead to isolation and self-hatred. As to this response, I recently read a quote by author Fr. Jacques Phillipe that might be helpful. He wrote, “But sometimes our love for ourselves is called into question… you loved yourself when you were satisfied with yourself, when everything was going well, but now, seeing your inner poverty and sinfulness, you begin to hate yourself. No! Accept yourself in all your poverty and limitations.” We need to cling to the knowledge that Jesus knew of our sinfulness long before we were born and He loved us so much that He died for us.
The healthy response to the evil within us is to acknowledge it and have a desire to change. Jesus called us to repentance and change. We need to bring our sins and flaws into the light of day. We have to admit our evil in order to gain control over it. Psychologists point out that the first step towards change is acceptance. As Christians, we must accept that fact that we are broken, then we must have the desire to change.
Jesus taught us that a house divided cannot stand. The same is true for a divided heart. Jesus made it clear in both Matthew 22:30 and Luke 10:27 that He wants all of our heart. He does not want us to have a divided heart. So just where is the dividing line in our heart? What percentage of our heart are we giving God?
If Solzhenitsyn was correct when he said, “Even in the best of all hearts, there remains … an un-uprooted small corner of evil,” then let’s turn that part of our heart over to Jesus as well, so that through Him, it too can be nailed to the cross. Perhaps we can begin each day by praying Psalms 51:12. It states, “A clean heart create for me, God; renew within me a steadfast spirit.”
I started today’s message by asking the question, where do we begin to eradicate evil from the world? We start by eradicating the evil inside of our own heart. We do this by asking the Holy Spirit to give us the courage to admit our faults to ourselves and to a trusted Christian confidant. After admitting our sinful tendencies, we need a desire to change, and we need to invite Jesus to fill our entire heart. If we do these things, we will have begun the process of eradicating evil in the world.
Heavenly Father, I offer you my entire heart this day. Grant me a clean heart. Strengthen me to admit my sinfulness. And draw me always closer to your Son, Jesus my savior. Amen.
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