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Christmas and the End of Evil

December 22, 2012

One week ago, the news of the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT began making its way around the country and world. With shock we listened and watched the reports of the slaying of the innocent. And once again we were reminded that evil does exist in our world. Inevitably at times like this the question is raised, “If God is good, why does he allows evil to exist?” To see and hear of the horrendous and senseless murder of children and teachers, reminds us that the existence of evil is practically undeniable. However, before we answer the question of why, we need to address the question of what – “What is evil?”

When most of us think of evil we think in terms of its manifestation among humanity – terrorists, school shooters, gangsters, drug lords, malevolent dictators, rapists, etc. And though evil exists apart from humanity, we mostly speak of it in terms of its being part of our human experience. Consequently, for the Christian, evil is any manifestation of the sinful rebellion in humanity against humanity and God. In other words, evil is sin.

With this definition, evil is not just the murderous rampage of terrorists or school shooters, it also the sinful thoughts, actions, and intentions in all of us (Gen. 6:5). The malevolent dictator and the school shooter may be more reprehensible in our sight, yet I must admit that I have sinned, am a sinner, and have thought and did evil as well. In one sense, evil exists because I do. If this is the case, then for God to rid the world of evil, he would have to rid the world of me. To be just, he could not simply stop at the school shooters. And yet, ridding the world of evil is what God is doing. It is what we are reminded of at Christmas.

Christmas is the time we remember the birth of Christ in the world. Christ came as light, piercing the darkness of sin and evil (Isa. 9:2; Jn. 1:4-5). He came to bring an end to the works of evil (1Jn. 3:8) and to remind us that God has not left us to our own evil devises.  Instead, Christ has entered into our human experiences of evil and sin, becoming the recipient of it and being slain and murdered, even crucified on the cross (Phil. 2:8). Yet, with Christ evil did not have the last word, because according to the Scriptures Christ was raised from the dead on the third day (1Cor. 15:4). He triumphed over evil (Col. 1:15) and promised we can and will also if we trust and believe in Him.

At times like these, we must remember that in Christ, God is meticulously making an end to sin and evil. In fact, he uses tragedies and manifestations of evil to remind us our only hope and comfort is that one day all evil, sin, and even death will end (Rev. 20:14; 21:4). We must remember, the demise of evil began at the first Christmas. Every subsequent Christmas should remind us that God’s work continues as we anticipate the coming of Christ again.

Obviously these few words are not going to fully answer the “why” question. However, I can confidently say that one of the reasons evil exists is so God can be eternally glorified in the redemption of evil doers from their sin through Jesus Christ, his Son. Christ did not come into the world only because there are child molesters and shooters. He came also because there are husbands who don’t love their wives and wives who won’t submit to their husbands. He came because there are disobedient children, prideful pastors, arrogant athletes, lying lawyers, gossiping girls, and belligerent boys. He came because I, like the terrorist and the shooter, am a sinner in need of a Savior.

So when I am tempted to look at the world and despair of the evil in it, and ask the question why God allows it, I must be careful to look also at my own heart and know that it is his allowance of evil that has brought me so great a salvation. And to know that the Christ, who came to save the world from evil, triumphed over evil at the cross and is coming again to bring that work to full completion. Until then, evil exists and so does God. God had the final word at the resurrection of Christ. He will have the final word again someday.

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