Dear Friends,

“What do you think of ISIL blowing up bombs in the two Egyptian Coptic churches on Palm Sunday?” One of my non-Christian friends asked me this earlier in the week. I said, “It was evil.” He thought it was horrible but he was uncomfortable with the word, “evil”. In fact, he told me this. He said, “ISIL are animals.” He is uncomfortable with the word, “evil” and what it entails. He prefers the word, “animals”, without thinking about what it entails. I suggested to him that his moral categories were shrinking and unable to grasp what was happening.

I recently watched a largely forgettable 12-episode series around a series of murders. In the final episode, the police have compelled a minor accomplice to “wear a wire” – a device that will allow the police to listen to, and record, the conversation between the informant and the murderer. As the two talk, the murderer does, in fact, confess to the murders and explains how he fooled the police. One of the people he murdered was a girlfriend carrying his child. The informant is horrified at the calm way the murderer explains his calculated actions. He cries out, “You are insane!” The murderer denies being insane. Instead, he says he is more highly evolved and that it is of the nature of evolution that the strong kill the weak to thrive.

Notice, the informant does not call the murderer “evil”, he calls him “insane”. Like my friend, there is a shrinking of moral categories. It is a different type of shrinking to believe “evil is insanity” as opposed to “evil is animalistic.” But both impair and shrink our ability to think morally. As an aside, maybe a topic for a series of blogs. To lose the category of moral evil and replace it with categories of “insanity” or “animalistic” is to dehumanize people in a dangerous way.

The Bible contains an outline of moral sanity. It balances the integrity and dignity of human beings with the reality of evil that we often do. It understands the evil of some “systems” and philosophies; of some social structures; and of individuals. It has insight into the reality of demons and the evil they inspire and do, as well as “mere” human evil. God is good, always and unshakably good. God is perfectly good and just and merciful and loving – and these “virtues” are at peace in Him, never in conflict. No human being is perfect and all of us are better at seeing specks in another person’s eyes, than seeing logs in our own.

It was into such a world that Jesus came to die and to rise.

Evil does its worse – killing God. But God, in justice and mercy, uses this act to redeem all who put their trust in Jesus. Justice without compromise. Mercy without limit. The only hope for human beings; the moral order clarified; real redemption. This is why we want to be disciples of Jesus gripped by the Gospel living for God’s glory.