Good And Evil
Charles J. Aebi
In the first Harry Potter movie, Voldemort says, “There is no good and evil; there is only power.” Many people have that philosophy or some other much like it. Politicians sometimes use any means, whether ethical or not, to attain power; we have seen some running for office (and some in office) lie unashamedly even in front of television cameras. Unfortunately, this is not confined to politicians; it happens with some business people and even in the church. Third John 9-10 speaks of Diotrephes, who loved power, rejected apostles and other brethren, and put out of the church those who did receive the brethren. You have heard of and may have known some power-hungry “Christians” who did similar things. It is significant that John says in the immediate context, “Beloved, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good. He who does good is of God, but he who does evil has not seen God” (3 John 1:11, NKJV).
How can we know what is good and what is evil? John seems to expect his readers to know the difference, which means they had to know what each was. Some today argue that there is no such thing as good or evil, while others say that no one has the right to judge anyone’s actions as to whether they are good or evil, and still others think they have the ability to define what is good and what is evil for themselves and others. Situational ethics writers say that anything is good if it is done out of love, or of what they call “love,” so they believe that adultery thus is sometimes good. On the same basis, people justify both abortion and euthanasia.
The only way we can know what is good is if God says it is; the same holds true of evil. God is the only One capable of defining good and evil, which the Bible often calls righteousness and sin. What God tells us to do is good or righteous, and to refuse or fail to do it is sin (1 John 3:4; James 4:17). It is also sin to do what He tells us not to do. Jesus always did God’s will (John 4:24; 6:38; Luke 22:42); Peter said that Jesus “went about doing good (Acts 10:38). God’s judgments are good (Psalm 119:39) and righteous (Psalm 119:62); all of God’s commandments are righteousness (Psalm 119:172). Paul said he wanted the Romans to “be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil” (Romans 16:19, NIV), and to that end he gave them the gospel, God’s standard of righteousness (Romans 1:16-17).
Believe it or not, many people do not know the difference between good and evil. Teachers in public schools tell me that some high school girls leave home and move in with their boy friends and actually do not know that there is anything wrong with it. The boys involved do not understand that it is wrong. How could such a thing happen? The answer is simple: God, in His word, defines good and evil, and too many people know next to nothing about God’s word. This week I baptized a young lady in her twenties who did not own a Bible or a New Testament. (She does now!) Our job of teaching people the gospel now is different than it was several years ago when most people had some Bible knowledge. To many today, the Bible is an unknown book, and their ideas of good and evil come from a culture that has become indifferent to God’s word. –2660 Layman Rd., Vincent, OH 45784-9730. firstname.lastname@example.org
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