Resisting the Genius of Evil

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 . . .

4 thoughts on “Resisting the Genius of Evil

  1. Haddon Anderson

    Yesterday, our pastor spoke on Matthew 16 and how the Pharisees and Sadducees demanded a sign from Jesus, seeking to manipulate him into action. He then expounded upon the depths of manipulative behavior and how such behavior totally enflames the sinful dynamics you’re delving into here.

    He touched on the way manipulation can feature the use of guilt (believing that the right guilt trip will produce changed behavior), unwarranted accusations (believing that these will somehow convict the person and reveal that THEY are in the wrong), the use of anger (“if I get mad enough, they’ll be forced to change”), and the use of negative comparison (“so and so” never talked to me like this…”).

    I greatly appreciated this as well as your post. These types of behaviors are subtle yet so destructive. Further, they will never set things right in a relationship, as you stated. That’s the lie that’s so easy to believe! “If I convince them deeply enough that I’m angered by this, then I won’t have to deal with this anymore…”

    It seems like we’re good at perpetuating evil in subtle ways that we can deem miniscule. But they end up enflaming the genius of evil in more destructive ways than we realize.

    1. timgombis

      Thanks for that, Haddon — those are precisely the lies we buy when we behave this way. For some reason, such courses of action are so compelling in the moment! But the consequences can be devastating.

  2. David Westfall

    This is really relevant to what we talked about at our church small group tonight–taking up the cross. I figured that one shorthand for how the way of the cross confronts evil is that it says “No farther.” Whatever evil is being perpetrated here, I am going to let it terminate in me; be put to death in myself, with only the reply of forgiveness. Obviously the scope of evil is beyond us, but that seems like our part–as members of the crucified messiah who *isn’t* to small to encompass all the world’s evil within his death. We put evils to death by the way of the cross that says “No farther,” in a way that testifies to, complements and expresses the gift of the one who did it finally and for the whole world.

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