After posting about a particular genius of evil, I enjoyed a great talk with a friend over a wonderfully sloppy burrito that furthered some personal reflections on this dynamic in ministry settings.
We talked about the temptation to respond sinfully when a ministry partner, for whatever reason, repeatedly takes verbal shots at us in public settings.
(Side note: the pervasive realities of resentment, a competitive spirit, and “professional jealousy” among ministers [and biblical scholars!] are far too seldom drawn into the light and exposed to serious and redemptive critique).
When we’re sinned against, we are tempted to sin in return. Why are we so drawn to such responses even though we know they won’t do any good?
The source of temptation is the aroused anger and desires for revenge that are so powerful they feel impossible to overcome.
And we sense that to do nothing—to respond by not retaliating—will guarantee that the injustice will only continue. If we don’t respond, we will continue to be treated badly.
To simply be reminded that “two wrongs don’t make a right” carries no compelling force in the midst of a conflict. The emotions we feel are too overpowering.
There is at least one very good reason, however, to resist retaliating. Remember, the genius of evil is in the illusion that we can solve a problem or achieve a satisfying result of justice through an evil response. It feels that I’ll really “get through” to this person or truly “send a message” if I speak in this seriously hurtful way or make this devastating response.
Such a course, however, eliminates all hope that I’ll create the conditions in which the problem will be solved.
I will have joined the cause of destruction, furthering the spread of evil, enflaming the sinful dynamics that enslave others and now bind me, ensuring that sinful responses and counter-responses perpetuate.
I may do the intended damage, but I will not escape the self-destruction.
This is why Paul says that we need to resist and stand firm “in the evil day” (Eph. 6:13). The environment itself is evil. We inhabit an interconnected matrix of corruption. If we act according to this present evil age, we knit ourselves to its enslaving and destructive dynamics and guarantee that we will participate in its ultimate end.
The genius of evil is to draw us into the enslaving dynamics of sin by giving in to the temptation to solve evil by doing evil.
We may feel that we will set things right by taking an evil course, but we only enslave ourselves, uniting ourselves to chaotic forces of destruction by an evil response.
So, how do we respond? Stay tuned . . .