Evil: A Primer

Against you, and you alone, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight. You will be proved right in what you say, and your judgment against me is just. Psalm 51:4

There is much evil afoot. 

But what exactly is evil? 

Anything that contradicts the holy nature of God is evil. All things created by man, from fire to the printing press to a smartphone, can be used for good or evil. Evil is contrary to God’s created order. The fall in the Garden of Eden resulted in a breach of that order.

In general, evil can be considered as either physical (natural) evil or moral evil. Physical evil is disaster, misfortune, or calamity that befalls people, and may or may not be linked to moral evil.  Often physical evil is simply the result of an accident or unknown cause, with no apparent moral component.  Physical evil includes injuries, car accidents, hurricanes, and earthquakes. Physical evil can also include God’s retribution (divine judgment) for sin. 

Understanding moral evil starts with the Ten Commandments, which set out the two forms of moral evil – sins against God and sins against our fellow man.   The first four Commandments (Exodus 20:1-11) set out sins against God, including blasphemy and idolatry.  Commandments six through ten (Exodus 20:12-17) represent evil behavior committed against other people (murder, theft. lying, adultery, etc.).   Moral evil is perpetuated by man and is sin, representing an element of man’s free will.

In summary evil is that which is perverted or harmful, and includes both physical evil, such as accidents and natural disasters, and moral evil, including deeds against God or one’s neighbor.

In such a time as this let us covenant together to push back against evil. We can’t do much to confront natural evil, although we must recognize it as evil. Moral evil, on the other hand, requires us to push back wherever and whenever we can. Push back includes calling it out (speaking truth), or actual physical action to right the wrongdoing.

Go forth.

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