When you read or hear the word “evil,” what comes to mind? How about the word, “sin”? In popular culture, both have taken on almost salacious connotations. Rather than being perceived as wickedness or wrongdoing, including those terms in a movie title or book description typically serves to pique the interest of potential viewers or readers.
This is to society’s detriment. Evil and sin are hopelessly, and eternally, intertwined. We seem to have lost a sense of transcendent virtue, as well as its antithesis, pure evil. Many people chuckle at the mention of Satan or the devil, whom the Bible describes as the “prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience” (Ephesians 2:2). When mentioned, folks envision some little guy in a red suit with a pitchfork. A reference to sin also is likely to elicit giggles. As someone has accurately said, “If sin wasn’t any fun, we wouldn’t want to do it.”
But to shrug our shoulders, diminishing or even denying the pervasiveness of evil is to our great peril. Evidence of it is everywhere. We don’t have to look hard. Violence, sensationalized by TV, movies and electronic media, is being played out across our nation. Domestic abuse is rampant. People are held captive to many forms of destructive addiction. Hatred and vitriol is spewed across social media, rather than respectful, reasonable communications.
Recently I finished editing a trilogy of novels written by a friend, drawn from real-life experience – hers and those of women she has worked with as a professional counselor. Her books focus on three terrifying years as a young girl subjected to satanic ritual abuse. Reading them brought to mind the horror novels I used to read, until I realized they were pointing me away from God, rather than toward Him.
What makes her story so horrific, so mind-boggling, is that it’s not the product of the twisted imagination of some weird author, but an account of the depths of evil that few of us can fathom.
Years ago, one-time atheist turned Christian apologist and author C.S. Lewis wrote: “There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight.”
Then there are the words of the late commentator Paul Harvey, first aired on his ABC Radio program on April 3, 1965, called “If I Were the Devil.” I won’t present its entirety here – you can find the full transcript as well as audio and video versions of it online. But many of his observations – made more than 55 years ago – seem hauntingly familiar.
Harvey said, “If I were the Devil…I mean, if I were the Prince of Darkness…I should set about however necessary to take over the United States. I would begin with a campaign of whispers. With the wisdom of a serpent, I would whisper to you as I whispered to Eve: ‘Do as you please.’… To the young I would whisper, ‘The Bible is a myth.’ I would convince them that man created God instead of the other way around….
“I would caution them not to be extreme in religion, in patriotism, in moral conduct. And the old, I would teach to pray. I would teach them to say after me: ‘Our Father, which art in Washington.’… I would evict God from the courthouse, and then from the school house, and then from the houses of Congress and then, in His own churches I would substitute psychology for religion, and I would deify science because that way men would become smart enough to create super weapons but not wise enough to control them….
“If I were the devil, I would take from those who have and I would give to those who wanted, until I had killed the incentive of the ambitious…. Then, I could separate families…. In other words, if I were Satan, I’d just keep on doing what he’s doing.”
As followers of Jesus, we should not be at all surprised, shocked, or dismayed. In fact, the Scriptures repeatedly warn that is the way things will be. This is why Ephesians 6:10-13 helps us to understand what’s happening and how we should respond:
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rules, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore, put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.”
We find this encouragement in 1 Corinthians 16:13, “Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong.”
There’s this assurance from Jesus Himself, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). We also have Christ’s promise that we are never alone or abandoned. His last recorded words were, “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). Be aware - but do not fear.