Evil has many dimensions, aspects, and components, but I’ve been struck lately by a particular genius of evil. Evil has a multiplying effect in that sin tends to provoke sin.
That is, when we are sinned against, we are so provoked that we can only imagine responding by sinning. And when we encounter outrageous evil, our sense of justice is provoked Because of our corruption, however, we tend to fantasize about some kind of retaliation that will be so violent that it will satisfy our sense of outrage, setting things right.
Sin begets and provokes further sin.
I was struck again by this during the past election season. We encounter outrageous political rhetoric for or against this or that person or view. We may be so completely offended that we respond angrily with sinful speech. This invites, in return, further vituperation and we are locked in a war of words without any possible winner.
The escalating violence between Israel and Hamas is another example. Without trying to sort out who’s right and who’s wrong, what’s clear is that the cycle of violence will unfold predictably and tragically.
This dynamic works in families and work environments, too. I am wronged or feel slighted, so I sin against my spouse, child, parent, or sibling. This invites retaliation in some form that will, in turn, provoke a response and counter-response. My feeling of being wronged or misunderstood fuels a response that fosters destruction.
It’s just astounding to stand back and behold the genius of evil—its multiplying effect and how it runs down social networks, increasing and infecting everything.