The Difference Between Bad and Evil

What is the line between bad and evil?  Is there such a line, and how does one walk it?

People do bad things.  Good people do bad things sometimes.  Everyone does.  It’s a matter of our sinful condition.  And as we try to make our way in the world, we have to draw distinctions – or should draw them – between bad and evil.  Between the bad choices that people make – the faulty reasoning they rely on, the flawed character they reveal, the stubborn willfulness that is all too often evident – and the work of evil in and through them.  It’s a difficult distinction to try and draw.  It’s a difficult distinction to live out, particularly if one is directly affected by the behavior or words.  But it’s an important one to draw, I have become aware of recently.  Particularly with the awareness that people are watching.  Watching responses.  Watching attitudes. 

I think our sinful tendency is to classify bad too easily as evil, and to wage war against it with all our might.  Words, attitudes, gossip.  In righteous indignation we give in to the same behavior – or worse – than those we war against.  We feel justified.  Desperate times require desperate measures and all that jazz.  An eye for an eye, we cry, forgetting too easily that if the letter of this law was followed we would all be blind.  If we have been hurt, or offended, or insulted, it’s so easy to slip into the mindset that any response can be justified – must be justified.  To not respond would be to tacitly endorse badness or evilness.  Wouldn’t it?\

The New Testament is full of exhortations to keep peace between believers.  Romans 14:19.  Ephesians 4:3.  Hebrews 12:14.  2Peter 1:5 and 3:14 to a certain degree as well.  The phrase they all utilize is make every effort.  What does this mean?  It sure sounds like it could include choosing not to respond to offense, even if there is a legitimate grounds for a response.  It may mean biting our tongues when we’d rather respond with an equally stinging retort (or truth be told, a slightly more stinging retort).  It may mean being willing to suffer offense for a greater goal – the bond of unity among Christians. 

1Corinthians 6:7 is so powerful.  The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means you have been completely defeated already.  Why not rather be wronged?  Why not rather be cheated?   Paul is acknowledging that as sinful people – and as sinful believers – we will disagree and people will be hurt by the intentional or unintentional badness of fellow believers.  And while we’re quick to wish to press for the offending party to be brought to justice, Paul instead focuses on our response as the injured.  He doesn’t mince words.  Even the pursuit of justice can result in complete defeat.  Being right, being vindicated – is a secondary issue to the Christian.  In all likelihood, it’s even lower on the list than second place.  Yet so often we seek out rightness and vindication as though in that process we are demonstrating true Christian faith.  Paul seems to disagree.  Strongly.

How many congregations are split apart because of the insistence of treating bad as evil?  How much of the Christian witness is compromised because being right supersedes loving one another?  How often are we willing to witness to the love of Christ by self-sacrifice, rather than vindication?  It’s not a matter of character, it’s not a  matter of this being a way to rub the other person’s face in the situation and secretly score a tactical victory (though Romans 12:20 may tend to lead us to think this is ok, it’s important to note that Paul is referring to an enemy, not a brother or sister in Christ!).  We pray for the strength to do it because it’s the right thing to do.  Because we are called to emulate a Savior who is glorified in humility and humiliation, in weakness rather than strength. 

6 Responses to “The Difference Between Bad and Evil”

  1. life settlement Says:

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  2. Advent Says:

    Excellent article!

  3. Brian Says:

    Hello Mr. Expert, When are going to write up a follow up article on this post… is it going to be anytime soon? :) _______ “We run a Lawyer Directory about Good Lawyers” … ( http://www.QSLaw.com )

  4. greatcinema Says:

    In Africa it’s summer or winter now?

  5. zhilayazona Says:

    Excellent article!

  6. zhilayazona Says:

    Excellent article!

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