On Friday, December 14, 2012 a young man pushed his way into a Connecticut elementary school and coldly murdered twenty six people. Twenty of them had never reached the age of eight. After one hour of evil, many will spend days, weeks, months, and years in grieving. All of us are challenged to confront evil itself. What can we do, personally and as a society, to protect ourselves from the destruction caused by evil? As a society, we have tried to detect and imprison evil. We have removed those that seem evil from out of society. We have removed many perpetrators of evil from out of our lives. But evil still haunts us. We have achieved phenomenal accomplishments in engineering, in the arts, and in scientific discovery. A trip half way around the globe is now less stressful and time consuming than a trip over the hills and through the woods to grandma’s house used to be. But we have not achieved similar results in containing and eradicating evil. It is still present, revealing itself at random moments, reminding us of our helplessness to conquer it.
All of the tools available to society may partially contain evil, but cannot eradicate it, for we can never force evil out of another person’s heart. The battle against evil is ultimately an individual battle. It is fought daily. It involves personally learning to recognize what is really good and what is not. It demands intellectual rigor to pierce the confusion and lies that still swirl around us for the purpose of protecting evil. It involves challenging the status quo and what seems normal, for our status quo offers us a means of survival while we accommodate evil. It is a “normal” that integrates evil with good.
The unconverted heart enjoys at least some evil, until it reaps its due reward. For the shooter of Newtown, there may have been a euphoric sense of power and control. For those of us who take our friends and family for granted, the pleasure of the movie we were watching or the friend we were commiserating with was temporarily more satisfying than expressing love and gratitude to someone close to us. We like evil, until we experience its downside.
The only way to eradicate evil is to remove it from each human heart. As long as it hides beneath the surface, it will find opportunities to highjack the human it resides in and destroy people.
And there is only one means of having personal victory over evil. It is the discovery of Jesus. Not the chanting of His name or the repetition of His titles. Not the attachment to a mythical persona. But the real appreciation of Him.
Let us stand figuratively in the shadow of His death and look at His life. Watch His nobility as He recognizes and actively provides comfort for his own mother and for women He passes along the way without asking for the least sympathy for the injustice and suffering of His impending execution. Earlier, He did not flinch when they took up stones to murder Him, but He weeps at the moral suicide committed by these “champions of morality” who are really a showcase of evil. He sees the leaders destroying their society, blaming anyone but themselves for their own evil conduct, and it breaks His heart. He cries with the fatherless, the powerless, and the widows. He helps the homeless, the disheartened, and those in the prison created by social stigma. His behavior stands faultless, throughout the record. He demonstrates love, compassion, moral courage, dignity, responsibility, determination, restraint, and all other virtues.
Look at the Person who was haunted by every evil imaginable, but refused to permit the first evil thought to linger in His heart. All of the evil that surrounded Him was never used as an excuse to permit any evil to come from Him. He took personal responsibility for refusing to say or do anything evil. Jesus never blamed anyone, or saw any circumstance as a justification for evil.
As we look at the most noble Person our world has ever witnessed, we will naturally see ourselves as individuals that have tolerated, accommodated, and even perpetrated evil in this world. Each of us has contributed to a world with evil. Some of us have given the world a double portion of that evil. Others have simply done nothing to conquer evil, feeling proud that we are not top contributors. But evil doesn’t need big donors only. Any contribution will do. And all of us have given at least our spare change.
Looking at the courage and the nobility of Jesus, we recognize that He and we cannot get along as long as any evil gets in the way. Each of us can be friends with Jesus only if we drop the evil, all of it.
At its root, every thought and every act of evil is not only an injustice or harm to some creature but an equal injustice to our Creator as well. We need Jesus to forgive us. We need pardon. We need to be saved and changed. This reconciliation is the only real remedy in the universe for evil. It is an individual solution. No one can experience it for another. It is a real and effective solution. It is a gratifying and thrilling solution. It is the answer to evil, all evil.
The cruel history of December 14, 2012 ought to drive us to a personal daily determination to look at Jesus, to resolve every difference between our sinful selves and His perfection. We ought to take that one December day’s horrible events as a reminder to pursue an evil-free life at any personal cost.
When we delay and dally with evil, we embrace it and provide it credibility and traction. As we tolerate evil, we become personally responsible for its existence. We have just witnessed in Newtown, Connecticut, a victory of evil in the day-to-day battle. Let us take courage and renew that day-to-day battle so that evil’s momentary achievement will be lost in resounding defeat. Let evil’s temporary win in the battle strengthen our commitment, and let us increase our resolve to be victorious in the war.