Wednesday, April 4, 2007

How Evil is Man?

In Isaiah 64:6 we read, “But we are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags.”
And again in Romans 3:10 “There is none righteous, no, not one.”

I understand that no matter how good a person I am , no matter how hard I try to be perfect in all my ways, I can never measure up to God’s standard of righteousness . But that does not mean that I am not a good person when compared to other human beings. In fact , I think I would be judged by most people who know me to be a very good person, someone who would go above and beyond the call of duty in my relationships with others.
So I understand when God says, “There is none righteous , no not one” , that it means that even if I have sinned only ONCE in my life, I have a need of a Saviour to restore my relationship with God that was broken because of Adam’s fall.

But there is another verse in Jer. 17:9 that is a little more explicit.
It says, “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked, who can know it.” Well, I have lived long enough to have seen how evil man can be , how cruel and self-centered, how capable of committing horrendous crimes. This is the kind of person this verse is talking about it, isn’t it? God could never mean to include me in this dire proclamation - could He?

Oswald Chambers, author of “My Utmost for His Highest”, said, “No crime has ever been committed that every human being is not capable of committing.”
Wait! surely he is not including himself in that statement ….nor me!!
I could NEVER do any of the heinous crimes that continually shock me when they are reported on the evening news.
I may commit sin, I may not always be perfect in attitude or thought. .but that is a long way from committing a crime. Why, yesterday I even insisted that my husband release a spider outside rather than killing it when I found it crawling on my kitchen wall.

But wait… it gets worse….

My husband bought a copy of the secular DISCOVER magazine (April, 2007 issue) and in it there was a disturbing article. A book excerpt entitled, “Think you are above doing evil? Think again”
The new book is called “The Lucifer Effect : Understanding How Good People turn Evil” (Random House publishers)
The author, Zimbardo states “the line between good and evil is in the center of every human heart.”
Zimbardo was the man who set up the infamous Stanford Prison Experiment conducted in 1971. The purpose of the experiment was to explore how far good people would go if they were placed in a bad place. The experiment had to be terminated prematurely because the results were so shocking!
Zimbardo watched normal, healthy, intelligent college students undergo a transformation of character. Good people suddenly became perpetrators of evil taking on the role of guards abusing pathologically passive prisoners.
What caused the transformation? Zimbardo cites situational forces, anonymity , and reduced personal accountability.

While Zimbardo was as shocked as the rest of the world at the images released in May of 2004 of American soldiers engaged in unimaginable forms of torture against civilians they were supposed to be guarding , he was not surprised.
After the 1971 experiments, Zimbardo has spend his life studying the psychology of evil, including torture , violence and terrorism.
He has concluded that , “Any deed that any human being has ever committed, however horrible, is possible for any of us , under the right circumstances.”

Sounds like an echo of Oswald Chambers quote written over 50 years earlier, doesn’t it ?
Chambers words came from a God-inspired view of man, while Zimbardo’s words came out of his own observation of human nature.

Their words are confirmed as true by the many accounts we have in God’s Word of human beings committing evil.
In the very first family , where there was no worldly influence, a man rose up in anger and killed his brother.
By the time Noah was commanded to build the ark, the whole earth was under the condemnation of God because, “the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” (Gen. 6:5)
God destroyed the earth, started over with Noah but only a short time later we have the world population joining forces to build the tower of Babel to reach heaven. God caused the confusion of languages to stop the project because He said, “now nothing will be restrained from them , which they imagined to do.” (Gen. 11:6)
How often do we read of the Israelites again and again turning away from God and turning toward evil. “Then the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord and served the Baals” (Judges 2:11)

But there are also people who shine in the bible , people who do not do ‘evil’ , Enoch and Noah who ‘walked with God’, Abraham who was God’s ‘friend’, David, ‘a man after God’s heart, the prophets , Moses, Elijah, Elisha, Isaiah, and many others.

So then, why is it that they did not , nor have I, committed the evil deeds that I am capable of committing?

It is only because of God’s goodness, not mine.
Look closely at the word ‘good’ , it is ‘God’ extended. ( Go-o-d) Only where God is, is there any goodness to be found.
And look at the word ‘evil’, it is taken from devil ( d-evil)
God has placed a hedge around me - laws , rules, people in authority to enforce these rules, built in consequences for wrong actions. He has given me the ability to learn, to think, to observe, to love…. and most importantly the ability to choose ‘good’ from His hand.
But even that is not enough – take away the hedge and my ‘goodness’ would evaporate.
What I need is a change of heart…. and that God provided for when He sent His son to die a horrible death so that I could be set free from the chains of sin that bound me. Only in Christ can I proclaim with the apostle Paul
wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me…? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord!!!” (Rom. 7:24,25)

Gratitude is directly related to degree of need.
Jesus illustrates this truth with two parables in Luke 7. where Jesus points out that the more you have been forgiven the greater will be your love for God.
For me, recognizing how ‘capable’ I am of the greatest sin, even though I have not committed them, has made me humbly and deeply grateful for the love of God extended toward me , love so great that He would die to save ‘a wretch like me’, and make me forever His child !!

Have you stopped to think how great and real your need is for a personal saviour?
How deep is your gratitude for what Jesus did for you 2000 years ago?

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