Monday, May 7, 2018

THE GENESIS OF EVIL




Adam and Eve had no excuse for their sin. They were perfect and were placed in a perfect environment, in perfect relationship with their Maker. They had perfectly no reason to sin. God had explained to them the one thing that they must not do and the consequences, and they had no reason to doubt Him. However, they surrendered to the temptation of eating the forbidden fruit, the temptation of immediate gratification in favor of God’s truth and opinions.

The sin wasn’t primarily a consequence of the temptation or irresistible compulsion but self-deception. They wanted the object of their desires right-now and were willing to reject God in favor of immediate gratification.

This speaks volumes about our own guilt. We all experience evil temptations, and we all know better. However, we are prone to say,

·       We have to have compassion and to understand that the evil-doer had actually been corrupted by their environment. Therefore, they are not responsible and need therapy and not punishment. The sexual abuser abuses because he was abused. More abuse in the form of punishment will not help him.

However, there is a better way to express compassion rather than by denying that the abuser is morally responsible. To deny this is to further demean the abuser in a counter-productive, dis-empowering way. Instead, we need only acknowledge the obvious – that “without the grace of God, we could easily have done worse!”

Besides, there are also many who have been abused who choose not to abuse despite their temptations to abuse. We are all tempted to do evil. However, we are wired to know the difference between good and evil. Therefore, we have a choice, and the way we choose will determine whether or not we become slaves to sin. If we give in to our evil impulses, evil will beget more evil.

Instead of confessing their sin to God, Adam and Eve gave in to the deception of evil (Romans 7:11) and hid themselves from God, convinced that they could handle their resulting guilt and shame on their own. Consequently, they acted foolishly and covered themselves with fig leaves to hide their shame. Even after God had given them a chance to confess their sin, they lied and blame-shifted. Sin had hooked them in.

We have been doing this ever since. We may not cover our sins with fig leaves, but we do so with accomplishments, power, money, and even good deeds to convince ourselves that we are worthy, even though we know otherwise.

However, the decay and stench are compounded. We substitute our fig leaves with pride and arrogance. We harden our conscience and tell ourselves that we are actually better than others. We become masters of positive self-affirmations to cover our shame. The Bible equates pride with wickedness and the rejection of the light of God’s truth in favor of the darkness (John 3:19-20):

·       …There is no fear of God before his eyes. For he flatters himself in his own eyes that his iniquity cannot be found out and hated. The words of his mouth are trouble and deceit; he has ceased to act wisely and do good. He plots trouble while on his bed; he sets himself in a way that is not good; he does not reject evil. (Psalm 36:1-4 ESV)

Through flattery (positive self-affirmations), the wicked have stifled the voice of their conscience – the voice of God – to enable them to do evil, even enjoying it. Meanwhile, they tell themselves that they are above the herd-mentality of the common man, who lacks the courage, character, and vision to risk the “freedom” that the proud have found.

·       In the pride of his face the wicked does not seek him; all his thoughts are, “There is no God.” His ways prosper at all times; your judgments are on high, out of his sight; as for all his foes, he puffs at them.  He says in his heart, “I shall not be moved; throughout all generations I shall not meet adversity.” His mouth is filled with cursing and deceit and oppression; under his tongue are mischief and iniquity. He sits in ambush in the villages; in hiding places he murders the innocent. His eyes stealthily watch for the helpless. (Psalm 10:4-8)

Often, this is hard for us to see. The proud operate through “ambush…hiding…[and] stealth...” They have learned to deceive through charm and are often very likable. Their confidence can be attractive. To cover their evil, they might even volunteer their services and generously tip. They have also become adept flatterers. They tend to win promotions and popularity contests. This is why Jesus warned:

·       “Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.” (Luke 6:26)

For personal gain, the false prophets had spoken a marketable and comforting message. Therefore, they were held in high esteem. This will also predominate in the last days:

·       For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. (2 Timothy 3:2-5)

This seems to be a portrait of secular religion, a Christ-substitute. The ungodly will use the “appearance of godliness” to cover their evil, sometimes even from themselves.

They are self-deluded, but are they responsible for their evil that they refuse to see and acknowledge? The Bible always presumes that we are responsible for our sins, even if we are not presently aware of them. Often, we have hid them from ourselves for so long that we can no longer see them.

I had always believed that I was right and the other person was wrong. I couldn’t allow myself to see otherwise. It was just too self-deflating. It was only as I grew in assurance of the love and acceptance of my Savior that I became able to accept the darkness within me – the very thing that Jesus had promised:

·       So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32)

Jesus then contrasted this freedom with the self-chosen-blindness and bondage of the religious leadership:

·       Jesus answered them [the leadership], “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin.” (John 8:34)

How did they become slaves? They had rejected the light of God:

·       Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. (John 8:43)

Nor can we bear the truth about ourselves, which we reject at great personal cost. In The Brothers Karamazov, Fyodor Dostoyevsky poignantly describes this price:

·       “Above all, don't lie to yourself. The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to a point that he cannot distinguish the truth within him, or around him, and so loses all respect for himself and for others. And having no respect he ceases to love.”

The Word is light. It exposes our sin and nakedness (John 7:7). Consequently, self-deception comes as easily as breathing. Our fig leaves are proof. In Vanishing Acts, Jodi Picoult wrote:

·       “You can fool yourself, you know. You'd think it's impossible, but it turns out it's the easiest thing of all.”

I too had rejected the light. Was this rejection guilt-worthy? Of course! I had the truth, but I had rejected it in favor of a comforting, self-validating darkness.

2 comments:

  1. They had perfectly no reason to sin. God had explained to them the one thing that they must not do and the consequences, and they had no reason to doubt Him.
    According to the story, Adam and Eve at the time were amoral, not able to understand good from evil, and so they could not know that what they were doing was wrong. The could not know that not following what God told them was wrong. You cannot apply morality to beings who have no understanding of the concept - it's just plain ridiculous.

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  2. But they did understand that they were not supposed to eat the fruit of this tree. Even had even admitted this to the serpent:

    Genesis 3:2-3 (ESV) And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’”

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