The Monotony of Evil and the Marvel of Good
“Imaginary evil is romantic and varied; real evil is gloomy, monotonous, barren, boring. Imaginary good is boring; real good is always new, marvellous, intoxicating.” – Simone Weil
I read this quote while reading a commentary on Isaiah (of all places!) and it captured my imagination. It feels like Christians (myself included) are too easily deceived by imaginary versions of good and evil. Do you know what I mean by imaginary versions? We hear about them in conversations with colleagues, and on radio talk shows and on TV. The imaginary good often looks like an obnoxious Ned Flanders and the imaginary evil looks like harmless fun, like some of the hilarious gambling ads we see on TV. In reality though, real evil is gloomy. I was at a pub recently where the Pokies room connected the bar to the restaurant. I walked through the Pokies room multiple times, and it was fair to say no one was winning any jackpots! People didn’t seem to be having fun. It was antisocial, monotonous, and for some, it may have been life-destroying. “Real evil is gloomy, monotonous, barren, boring.” The Apostle Paul, speaking to Christians about their former lives once said, “What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death!” (Romans 6:21).
I recall a time just out of high school where I backslid badly for a week. It was Schoolies week. I totally shut out God’s voice and did what I felt I wanted to do at the time. It was exciting for a little. The Bible certainly acknowledges that there is a kind of fleeting pleasure to sin (Hebrews 11:25). But, “sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death” (James 1:15). That Schoolies week was frustratingly unsatisfying, the economy of evil is an economy of diminishing returns. By the end of the week, I felt so convicted by my sin, so dirty, so sickened inside myself that I RAN back to God. I wished I had just stuck with the good rather than trying evil. All I wanted was God’s cleansing, his mercy, his welcome home. And you know what, the God who convicted me of evil, was the same one who welcomed me back, cleaned me up and gave me the dignity and pleasure of serving him again. When we know the real God, there’s no reason for us to keep hiding our evil and avoid him anymore. The One who judges our evil, is actually the One who loves us most. He is the One who offers us startling mercy and grace.
“Have you repented? God looks upon you as if you had not offended. He becomes a friend, a father. He will now bring the best robe and put it on you…. and will, with the father of the prodigal, fall upon your neck and kiss you…. O the music of conscience! Conscience is turned into a paradise, and there a Christian sweetly solaces himself and plucks the flowers of joy.” – Thomas Watson
Once we repent and receive God’s mercy, we’re then free to enjoy real good. “Real good is always new, marvellous, intoxicating.” I love some of the ways that people in our church creatively use their lives for good, for the glory of God. There are some who have designed their homes for ministry purposes, there are others who quietly finance gospel initiatives in the background, there are others who offer up their spare time to clean their neighbour’s backyards and make meals for others. These are all works that display the Kingdom of God… the beautiful rule of God which transforms human communities. And the greatest good is when these efforts open up opportunities to introduce people to the King of the Kingdom. There’s nothing more thrilling than when someone enters into a life-changing, life-giving relationship with King Jesus! Let’s enjoy the good that God has called us to do.
For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:10)
Walking with you,