When terribly evil acts are committed like a gunman randomly shooting strangers, most everybody is deeply saddened. We are shocked and awakened to once again realize that there is real evil in the world. And sometimes we think about it and wonder why.
So what is it that motivates someone to commit such atrocities? There is no human motive. The shooter doesn’t hate his victims. He doesn’t even know them. The shooter gets no reward from his evil act, only severe punishment or death. So why would anyone do such a thing?
Perhaps evil, itself, is more than we think it is. Perhaps it is not just extremely destructive or cruel actions or thoughts. Maybe evil is an intelligent entity that seductively woos weak human nature into compliance and obedience.
Have you ever been wooed, lured, seduced, or tempted into behaviors that you personally believed to be wrongful or evil, yet you did them anyway? Everybody has.
Evil is like a magnet consistently tugging on us, trying to pull us into harmful thinking and doing. There is the outward pull of evil — the allure of pleasure through sight and smell; the peer pressure of wanting to be accepted, the persuasion of media.
There is also an inward pull of evil — the pride of wanting to have no boundaries, the hunger for self-gratification, the desire to impose our own will no matter what.
Fortunately, we live in a world of restraints — laws, police, punishment, cultural taboos, and the belief by many in a God who sees everything we do and will hold us each accountable — that help us to individually resist the desire to do wrong that lives inside of us all. We also have the inner restraint of conscience.
But what if the restraints were removed. What if we didn’t care about laws or consequences and had no fear of police or punishment. or God and His judgment. What if we had a hardened conscience that no longer told us when we did wrong.
When restraints are removed, people tend to do evil — remember the fall of Baghdad and the immediate aftermath of Katrina. Why? Perhaps because evil isn’t just in bad people, but evil also lives in me and you and is striving to take us over and run our lives.
To quote Paul of Tarsus: “I know that within me, that is within my flesh, dwells no good thing.” And: “O wretched man that I am.”
That’s why Christ came — not for good people, but for evil people — to save us from the power of evil working in our lives. That’s why we desperately need God.