Stand Against Evil

I'm going to tell you a familiar story. There was once a young man who was bitten by a radioactive spider. You know the story already, don't you? He soon found that he was super strong, super agile, able to walk on walls and shoot webs, and much more. He used these powers of his to make a name for himself as a professional wrestler. Now there's nothing wrong with that. But one day, this young man watched as the promoter's office was robbed. He stood back and let the robber get away. It was not his job to stop a robber, after all. Later, that very same robber shot and killed his uncle. From that moment on, he devoted his life to fighting criminals, though in his mind, he was never able to atone for the death of his uncle.

You all know how we're supposed to "turn the other cheek". We are constantly reminded of this by outsiders, and usually it's the people who just slapped us on the first cheek. Our ideal is to live as peacably as possible with everyone. This ideal, unfortunately, has been stretched way out of proportion. In the same way jews forbid one another to do so much as push a button on the Sabbath, so many Christians have taken peacable living to an extreme and adopted a lifestyle of pacifism. What I am about to say will probably offend quite a few people, but it needs to be said. Pacifism is a sin.

Evil must be opposed for three reasons. The first and most obvious is to protect others. If a thief kills someone for his money, is he going to remain satisfied now that his needs are met? Of course not. He will spend that money and kill again to get more. If we lock this man up, even if he is never punished any other way, we take away his ability to kill and our streets become just a little bit safer. The second reason is because a swift punishment deters evil action. Delayed punishment is generally ineffective. Fear of punishment, if it comes swiftly, keeps many crimes from ever being committed. Once a punishment has been administered, if it is sufficiently awful, it may keep the perpetrator from ever repeating his action. But the most important reason is to bring a sinner to repentence. If you allow a criminal to do whatever he wants, he learns nothing. If you punish him, you eliminate the benefits of his evil. You demonstrate to him that his actions are going to come back on his head. Hopefully he gets the message that he and he alone is responsible for his suffering, and if he straightens out, it will stop. Perhaps, as many have, he will understand that he is doomed to Hell, but if he repents and asks God's forgiveness, he can yet be saved. If we remain pacificstic about evil, we may be responsible for the damnation of souls whom God loves.

Of course, the obvious question becomes "when?" That's the question I have the most trouble with myself. Sometimes it is difficult to determine when to fight and when to back off. I therefore offer these three guidelines. First, is it intentional? I have suffered some pretty bad injuries that were not intentional. My sister hit me in the eye with a staff, once. a friend ran over my flipper with a truck. A pet once tripped me and caused me to take a sofa arm in the gut. There was no reason t fight any of these people because the offense, though terrible in consequence, was not intended. Had I decked my sister or kicked the dog, no one would have had any benefit, including me. Nothing would have been learned, and there would have been some ruined friendships. When the offense is not intentional, it is usually better to just forget it. Second, is it dangerous? There are a great many crimes which are not done intentionally, but which are still counted as criminal action because someone was placed in danger. Juggling chainsaws is not a crime. Juggling chainsaws in a crowd is criminal negligence. In a less obvious example, we generally do not consider divorce acceptable. For a man to leave his wife because she has gotten fat, for example, is wrong. However, if she is smacking his head with a frying pan whenever he doesn't agree with her, he is not only justified in leaving, he has a moral responsibility to get himself and his children away from her, lest that abusive action continue. Lastly, evil should be opposed when it stands in the way of good. Remember the story of Achan? Because he took forbidden spoil from Jericho, many men lost their lives at Ai. The world might look at what Achan did and say "It doesn't affect me." Yet because of his sin, God withdrew his protection of the Hebrews. To use a more modern example, I know of an abusive man who would not drive his live-in girlfriend to the hospital when she was ill, nor would he allow anyone else to do so. His evil was such that he stood in the way of the good that she needed. The only justifiable path for that woman is to leave her boyfriend as expeditiously as she can. Peace is not possible, and it is through no fault of her own.

So then, HOW should we oppose evil? Should we all go out with loaded guns and blow away every central park mugger we can find? While I wouldn't stand in the way of someone who decided to do this, the answer is no. It is not fitting for anyone to uphold the law by breaking it. It is our duty to uphold the law. First God's law, then man's law. Our only excuse for breaking man's law is when it violates God's law. We need to act in love as well. Going after criminals with malice, intent on breaking their heads may be effective in the short term, and I can tell you from experience, it can be a lot of fun. I confess that I really used to enjoy chasing down criminals in my younger and more active days, and I always hoped for a fight. But remember our third objective in standing against evil. we want to bring the sinner to repentance. How many of you are familiar with Dog the bounty hunter? Those of you who have watched him know how he treats those he apprehends with respect. His desire for them, as he puts it, is for them to "wake up this side of the dirt". He treats them the way he would want to be treated. Yet at the same time, he never goes after someone halfheartedly, either. If one is going to go after evil, one must be prepared to see the job all the way through.

I am almost hesitant to issue a challenge this week, because I don't want anyone to go out LOOKING for problems. If one goes looking for evil, one is sure to find it. Look instead for the good in people. View everyone though God's eyes: with mercy, love, understanding and charity. Make every effort to live in peace with everyone. Be prepared to fight only when it is necessary, because sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. Instead, our first battleground should be within. Let us each look inside ourselves to see if there is any wicked or hurtful way within us. As Michael Jackson put it, Start with the man in the mirror.

1 Corinthians 5
5:1 It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father's wife.
2 And ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you.
3 For I verily, as absent in body, but present in spirit, have judged already, as though I were present, concerning him that hath so done this deed,
4 In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ,
5 To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.
6 Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump?
7 Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us:
8 Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
9 I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators:
10 Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world.
11 But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat.
12 For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? do not ye judge them that are within?
13 But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person.