I regularly pray for our nation. I pray that God would raise up men and women of courage who are willing to speak the truth regardless of consequences. I pray that our leaders would recognize good and evil. I pray that men and women would not call good evil and evil good. What is evil? Evil has no being. Evil is behavior. Evil is the deprivation, the absence of good. Only God is good. (Luke 18:19) Everything done in opposition to God’s word is, by definition, evil. We have the word of God so that we might know what is good, right, and true.
I am amazed by the depth of man’s evil. When I see it from afar my heart burns. When I read of leaders in the church teaching evil philosophies as good, I find myself being discouraged. But then I remember that evil will not win. God is sovereign even over evil!
John Calvin — the great reformer of the 16th century — wrote, “All who really serve and love God, ought to burn with holy indignation whenever they see wickedness reigning without restraint among men…” The Psalmist wrote, “O you who love the Lord, hate evil!” (Psalm 97:10)
The Bible declares that those who know God are to hate evil. The Bible also puts forth a standard of Christian behavior that exhorts believers never to return evil for evil, and to love our enemies. (Matthew 5:43; Romans 12:17; 1 Peter 3:9) On the surface, these two teachings seem to contradict each other. We know that the Bible is altogether true. There are no contradictions. God does not contradict himself. So, there must be two different things being expressed concerning evil.
The difference in calling for loving enemies on the one hand and hating evil on the other is a matter of context. God’s exhortation to love enemies is directed to those in the church who find themselves under the hand of evil men. They are the ones experiencing evil firsthand. The response of believers to evil and persecution is to “give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all.” (Romans 12:17) Peter used the word “bless” to describe the response of those in the church who find themselves under the hand of evil men. (1 Peter 3:9)
Concerning those who profess Christ and see evil from afar, Thomas Aquinas saw two Christian duties. The first is to combat it by every means and the second is to believe that God will vanquish it according to the perfect (but hidden) wisdom of his providence. Aquinas’ reflection on the issue of responding to evil reflects the Bible’s exhortation to hate evil. The Prophet Amos wrote, “Hate evil, and love good, and establish justice in the gate.” (Amos 5:15)
When evil occurs, there are always those who admonish Christians who are outraged and use the Bible to call them to love their enemies. Christians are to love all men. Christians are also to be people who stand for truth and justice. Micah 6:8 says, “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”
Believers in the risen Lord Jesus are never to wink at evil. Christians are not to respond with a man-centered idea of love. This response is often recommended by those who haven’t been the objects of evil. We worship a holy God. He is holy and he is love. He defined love in the cross of Christ. When you see evil done to others, seek justice. Know that God will pour out his wrath upon all evil and wickedness.
It is never right to spiritualize the Christian response to evil. Evil is real. Whereas evil is not a thing. It is behavior that opposes God. Remember the short definition of evil. It is the absence of good. The Apostle John wrote, “Beloved, do not imitate evil but imitate good. Whoever does good is from God; whoever does evil has not seen God.” (3 John 11)
The Christian response to evil is to do good. When we see evil being done to others, our response should be to seek justice by all lawful means available. When we experience evil, our response is to do good knowing that God will execute perfect justice. Major in knowing the one true God and you will be equipped to discern good from evil.
Lou Tiscione is the pastor of Weatherford Presbyterian Church.