What evil lurks in the heart of men?…

The 1930’s radio show “The Shadow” began with the provocative question, “What evil lurks in the heart of men?”  And it immediately answered itself, “The Shadow knows!”  This flashed in my mind when I read a statement in my Logic textbook.  The Logic book said that Orthodox Christianity does not believe in the existence of evil in itself.  In other words, evil is not a creative force, but a corrupting force.  Evil is the absence of the Good thing that should be there.  Evil is not something that God created to balance out Good.  Evil is a corruption of Good.  Evil is the shadow cast when something stands between the action and it’s Goodness.  In other words, there is little to nothing that can be considered “sin” or “evil” or “wrong” in and of itself.  On the surface “killing” and “murder” look the same, but they are worlds apart when it comes to the heart motivations, and reasons.

One would be hard pressed to find anyone who wakes up in the morning and decides, “today I’m going to be as evil as I can possibly be.”  Sure, you may find plenty who rebel against a competing moral code.  Someone may say in so many words, “I’m going to go against the Christian morality.”  Or possibly someone may say, “I’m going to be intentionally evil by the standards of liberal intellectuals.”  However, people don’t generally decide, “Today I’m going to behave intentionally opposite of my own deeply held beliefs and morals.”  John Wilkes Booth didn’t think he was murdering the Great Emancipator.  He believed he was destroying a tyrant.  Adolph Hitler didn’t believe he was murdering masses of God’s children.  He believed he was creating a super race of humans and working toward the greater good.  Even when we know we are doing wrong we find some reason why in this circumstance our wrong is really the only possible way we could behave.  But, we do not commit real evils just for the sake of committing evils.

So, how does this apply in real life?  I mean, it’s well and good to realize that evil is a shadow version of good, but what do I do with that?  The answer is twofold.  Forgiveness and watchfulness.  The Bible teaches us to love our neighbor as ourselves.  C.S. Lewis aptly points out that when we love ourselves it does not mean that we feel warm and fuzzy towards ourselves.  We don’t always like ourselves or our actions.  We truly desire correction and discipline.  But with others we tend to favor condemnation and punishment.  If we are going to love others the way we love ourselves, then we are to give them the same benefit of the doubt that we give ourselves.  We are to forgive.

Forgiveness does not mean that we shield anyone from the consequences of their actions.  This does not mean that we allow a non-repentant person to continue to behave in a way that is destructive to those around him.  But forgiveness does mean that we avoid viewing that person as “evil.”  It means that we look at our neighbor who is behaving in an evil way as exactly the same type of broken person as we are.  We do our best to consider how we might act in that person’s circumstances.  We do not condecend.  We realize that it is only God’s Grace that keeps us free from that sin, and only God’s Grace that keeps others free from our own sin.

The other aspect is watchfulness.  When we realize that even the ones who have done the most heinous actions were behaving in ways that they believed to be just and moral (or at least excusable), we can start to look at our own motivations a bit more closely.  We can be more aware when we are making excuses.  We can be more aware of our own hidden motivations that turn our Good into Evil.  We can, with the help of the Spirit, begin to discern exactly what it is that is turning our righteousness into filthy rags.

“The purposes of a man’s heart are deep waters, but a man of understanding draws them out.” – Proverbs 20:5

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About Andrew

The Universe is Round. View all posts by Andrew

4 responses to “What evil lurks in the heart of men?…

  • Romanós

    Yeah, your second paragraph expresses the same sound teaching that can be found in C. S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity. I have my books packed up at the moment, and I’m too lazy this evening to look up the exact lines that your post reminded me of on the internet, so I’ll leave it at that.

    What you’re expressing here is right on the money. What you’re writing is basic Orthodox teaching, the same in the Orthodox Church, and in C. S. Lewis (Anglican), and in (I would hope) most Bible-believing churches. Hence my contention that all disciples of Jesus are making our way to Orthodoxy. Even the Orthodox Church is. It’s something that we come into more and more as we allow Jesus to integrate us with Himself and His Father and the Holy Spirit more and more. The unearthly Triad wants us in the family.

    It’s good to read your words, brother, as good as seeing your smiling eyes and hearing your laughing voice. God bless you, Andrew.

    By the way, the holy season of Sarakostí (the 40 days) begins this Lord’s Day at sundown. Now we make our way back to Paradise where Christ has made a new Tree of Life from the wood of His cross.

    “Come, and let us drink of that New River, not from barren Rock divinely poured, but the Fount of Life that is for ever, from the Sepulchre of CHRIST the LORD.” (John of Damascus)

    Orthodox Easter is one week later than Western Easter this year. That’s why Sarakostí starts this coming Monday instead of the last. Catholics prepare for Easter remembering “dust thou art, and to dust thou shalt return,” receiving a smudge of soot on their foreheads.

    Orthodox prepare for Pascha at sunset on the Lord’s Day before Clean Monday by ceremonially and (let us hope) truly forgiving each other at the Vespers of Forgiveness, with hugs and kisses (and often tears). Then, fortified by having forgiven and being forgiven, we make the journey Home to Paradise, becoming vegan like Adam and Eve, and following Jesus into the wilderness to be tested, and then back to Jerusalem to be witnesses of His final week, His voluntary and life-giving death, and His glorious resurrection.

    This is more than a yearly observance. It’s where our faith is anchored for the rest of the year, and the rest of our lives, “for if Christ is not raised, then of all men we are most to be pitied,” as holy apostle Paul wrote. But He is “raised,” and He has become our life and our resurrection.

    Kalí Sarakostí, adelphós mou! Beautiful forty days!

  • Andrew

    Romanos,

    Thank you for your comments. I was actually planning to include a quote from Mere Christianity, but I gave in to my laziness and did not do the research to find the section. I finally did it. Here is the quote…

    ” Now that I come to think of it, I have not exactly got a feeling of
    fondness or affection for myself, and 1 do not even always enjoy my own
    society. So apparently “Love your neighbour” does not mean “feel fond of
    him” or “find him attractive.” I ought to have seen that before, because, of
    course, you cannot feel fond of a person by trying. Do 1 think well of
    myself, think myself a nice chap? Well, I am afraid I sometimes do (and
    those are, no doubt, my worst moments) but that is not why I love myself. In
    fact it, is the other way round: my self-love makes me think myself nice,
    but thinking myself nice is not why I love myself. So loving my enemies does
    not apparently mean thinking them nice either. That is an enormous relief.
    For a good many people imagine that forgiving your enemies means making out
    that they are really not such bad fellows after all, when it is quite plain
    that they are. Go a step further. In my most clear-sighted moments not only
    do I not think myself a nice man, but I know that I am a very nasty one. I
    can look at some of the things I have done with horror and loathing. So
    apparently I am allowed to loathe and hate some of the things my enemies do.
    Now that I come to think of it, I remember Christian teachers telling me
    long ago that I must hate a bad man’s actions, but not hate the bad man: or,
    as they would say, hate the sin but not the sinner.
    For a long time I used to think this a silly, straw-splitting
    distinction: how could you hate what a man did and not hate the man? But
    years later it occurred to me that there was one man to whom I had been
    doing this all my life-namely myself. However much I might dislike my own
    cowardice or conceit or greed, I went on loving myself. There had never been
    the slightest difficulty about it. In fact the very reason why I hated the
    things was that I loved the man. Just because I loved myself, I was sorry to
    find that I was the sort of man who did those things. Consequently,
    Christianity does not want us to reduce by one atom the hatred we feel for
    cruelty and treachery. We ought to hate them. Not one word of what we have
    said about them needs to be unsaid. But it does want us to hate them in the
    same way in which we hate things in ourselves: being sorry that the man
    should have done such things, and hoping, if it is anyway possible, that
    somehow, sometime, somewhere, he can be cured and made human again.”

    Thanks again. God Bless you, brother.

  • Andrew

    Hi there Andrew

    An excellent posting, worthy of much consideration and reflection.

    Thanks

    Andrew(feotu)

  • B

    Thanks for the comment on my blog. As you know being a parent makes little time for me to respond! I thought of Grateful Dead as well when I came up with the title 😉 Thanks again! Will be following your blog! Love CS Lewis as well…

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