Are you surprised? You shouldn't be. Appalled? Disgusted? Horrified? You should be. But surprised, not so much. Sarin gas, as hideous and demonic a toxin that it is, only scratches the surface of the depth of evil mankind can dredge from the bowels of his depravity.
The ongoing horrors in Syria are not new, to any extent. We’d like to think that by 2017 we would’ve repented from the events of Viet Nam, World War 2 and beyond, but we haven’t. Not even close. No, we habitually conjure decrepit spirits of pain, torture, and blasphemy. Every. Single. Day. Why? Because we’re evil, to the core. I’m not saying; they’re evil, I’m saying we’re all evil!
No, no, we’re good people!
Oh, did that last line surprise you? Offend you? “Who, me? I’m not evil, maybe a little bad, but evil? No way! I’m a good person.” Are you? By what measure are you evaluating your good life? Often, to make ourselves feel better, we compare our thoughts and actions to someone more heinous than ourselves. Adolf Hitler comes to mind. And we let ourselves off with, at worst, a warning. No, no, we’re good people!
But, darkness is darkness. When we compare ourselves to the blight in others, we set up a slanted standard. Even the darkest gray is lighter than pitch black. So when I brush off my impatience, crude language, or demeaning my spouse because it's "not as bad" as dealing drugs or abusing puppies, I present myself as a holy axiom. Righteous in my eyes but unrighteous before another better than myself. Even the slightest darkness is in need of the light of Christ. And in God's continuum, the lightest gray is gloomy Hell.
But we’ve created a cognitive elixir, taking away all of our guilt. Comparison. Have you considered this: Do people who are better than me, consider me evil? Ah, how the tables have turned! What actions or statements must a person make before we slap on the wicked label? Is it refusing to let a black man into your home to install your DirectTV? Or maybe it's a teenager slapping an innocent elderly man on a commuter train? Or is it driving a truck through a Bastille Day crowd? Perhaps it's deploying Sarin gas? Maybe it’s as easy as not being kind? But it’s certainly not you, right? And here in lies my point - comparison; it dilutes.
Does the image of the crucified Christ bother you?
When you look deeply into your heart, if you dare, concluding, “I'm not so bad." you can be assured you are now your standard. However, if when gazing into the depths of your heart you are disturbed by your secret thoughts, then you are on the cusp of all possibilities and rescue. It's not until we come to the sober realization that even our best efforts fall short of perfection, positioning ourselves for redemption by comprehending our great need, even in light of Hitler, Pol Pot, Ceausescu and perhaps Satan himself, that we can ever respond to the goodness of God.
On the eve of Good Friday, does the image of the crucified Christ bother you in the sense that it was necessary because of the depth of darkness in your soul? Do you realize that, compared to Christ, we are evil? There is no good thing in us (don’t confuse that with doing good things).
From Jesus’ perspective, all of us fall short of worthiness; auto-entrance into the Kingdom of God eludes us. There's not one living soul that has the clout to buy a ticket into the presence of God. Why, because we are evil. We are morally depraved, harmful, injurious, wicked, dark. Yes, we know how to give good things to our children, but that doesn’t take away our status before a holy and perfect God.
Evil isn't just about doing horrible things, always, all the time. No, sometimes Hell smiles. Evil can be the most subtle of pleasant whispers engaging an unfathomable darkness. If this is true, we must always check ourselves, against the glaringly revealing light of the Gospel. This is why the Psalmist says, "Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." Psalm 139:23-24.
So. Now. Where do you stand? Are you still content in not being as bad as your thieving or lying neighbor? Or, are you grasping just how dark the evil can be in you? It’s in this convicted condition that we can fling ourselves onto the cross of Christ, having his punishment be our own and in hope, stand in righteousness before a holy God because of the good work of Jesus - taking his life as our own.
Only the cross of Jesus confronts evil with lasting victory.
Only the cross of Jesus confronts evil with lasting victory. Only the cross rescues us from the delusion that we are good; diluting the false tonic of comparison. I hope this Easter you take the time to contemplate your life, holding it up to the light of the Gospel of Jesus, not so you can be condemned, but being released from the evil within.