What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”- Jesus-
Ashley Madison. Roanoke Virginia. Charleston. Ferguson. Public Political Name Calling. The news is full of what many can describe as evil. It seems like it’s all around invading like an army searching to conquer and occupy.
I was talking with one of my Christian friends the other day, and the conversation turned when he asked, “Who is leading the cultural war against all the evil we see?” And as soon as he asked the question, it felt like something hit me in the gut…
For years I’ve been a part of this “culture war” helping students try and live outside of culture. The theory was: If we only curbed the movies that we watched, the music we listen to, and the media we consume; the thought was we could actually be “lights” in a dark world.
But when my friend asked me the question a small passage from Mark 7 popped in my mind Jesus declares “All evil comes from within…”
WAIT A MINUTE…
For years I have been working under the premise we needed to purge our cultural identity in order to preserve the goodness and morality that also exists inside us. But Jesus didn’t say that. He didn’t say, “Stand up for your faith.” He didn’t encourage His followers to “Protect the Gospel.”
Jesus claims that all evil in the world comes from within the heart of man.
As I sat with my friend at the local coffee joint, it hit me like a ton of bricks. “What have I been doing to engage with people at a heart level?”
Maybe, we have a tendency to look outward at all the issues in our world that could be categorized as evil without taking the necessary steps to look deep into our own hearts. We’re more concerned with fighting cultural evil than approaching the world with the same heart of humility Jesus called us to.
Maybe, it’s not my job to battle the evil that I see; but rather, be vigilant about identifying the evil that’s inside of me. After all, I’m fully capable of being human, and adopting evil behavior just like the people I watch on the news. I can murder. I can lust. I can call people names.
But I wonder what keeps me from embracing evil? Is it denying myself any cultural encounter? Is it the environment I live in shaping me, or is it something already on the inside of me that drives me to embrace the environment? (This is crucial to answer in order that we engage)
In the story of Jesus, Luke writes “And Jesus increased in wisdom, stature, and favor, with God and man.” (2:52) Talk to your local theologian about this, and you’ll find several ways of interpreting. But in order to keep this post short, it seems like Jesus was working on His ability to understand the culture around Him. He was growing, even while here on earth.
I suppose if I’m following Jesus, then I have the same ability and modeling to “increase” as He increased. And when I increase, I’m able to identify the evil inside me, see the heart of evil within me, and begin living in increased ability of Jesus’ calling on my own life.
I can’t do anything about the atrocities happening in different parts of the world. I’m not equipped to boycott enough companies to bring evil to its knees. I can’t change the way the government works. I’m only able to take care of the situations I’ve been given.
Later in the scripture Paul writes, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12)
If this is true, then my battle isn’t even with what I perceive to be evil in the physical places. My own battle against evil resides in a spiritual realm that must be fought in a different way.
The world says, “Fight and stand up.”
Jesus says, “I lay down my life.”
The world says, “Conquer and Win.”
Jesus says, “Whoever Looses His life gains it.”
The world says, “Retaliate”
Jesus says, “Bless your enemies.”
The world says, “Guilt and shame those who are evil.”
Jesus says, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
Once we see evil as something growing within us, we have a choice to battle it as the world battles, or as the spirit battles. I suppose we can choose to embrace our inner evil, or we can find ways to fight.
I wonder if our intense “group think” battling of culture has created the disdain people see in people of faith today. We’ve largely decided to battle as the world battles, instead of lifting up Jesus and embracing the methodology He set out almost 2000 years ago.
When I turned back to my friend at the coffee table I said, “We don’t have responsibility to lead the cultural charge of defending. We have been given the greatest battle plan in history…mainly…Love God and Love Others. That will bring evil to its knees.”
What man sees as evil may be precisely the driver for us to re-engage with Jesus’ plan.