When someone tries to stop us from doing what God wants, how should we respond? The apostle Paul ran into this question on multiple occasions. Here was his advice to Timothy regarding one such agitator.
“Keep your eye out for Alexander the coppersmith! He came against me with all sorts of evil—may the Lord pay him back accordingly—so watch your back because he has gone overboard to oppose our message” (2 Timothy 4:14-15, Voice).
Paul released Alexander the coppersmith to God. “May the Lord pay him back accordingly.” Sometimes, I do this on behalf of those who want to subvert truth and justice. When unscrupulous church leaders or political leaders lie and purposely try to skew reality with fake news, I give them to God, who is perfect to deal with them appropriately.
It’s a hard lesson to learn, but when people fight against God and righteousness, they lose. In the short term, it may feel like hate wins, which motivates many people to do evil. A dictator like Hitler thought his plan to rule the world would succeed. But when he used division and hate to pit people against each other, he sabotaged his chances for success. Why? Because everything that isn’t built on love is destined to fail. The universe is wired to operate on love. Hate is a foreign idea that “gums up the works.” It is the “fly” in the healing ointment of life.
God wrestled with what to do with Lucifer—heaven’s fallen angel who became Satan! Immediately after sin corrupted his heart, God could have annihilated him, but not without repercussions. If He had immediately wiped Lucifer out, what would the universe have thought about God? Would He have been viewed as a reasonable being or an arbitrary dictator? Instead of love, fear would have become the dominant theme of heaven.
The long road to exposing and eradicating sin is painful because it involves protracted heartache and pain. However, it leads us to a better conclusion than the road to selfishness and greed.
Some of the devastating milestones on the road to exposing and eliminating evil include:
1. The flood
2. The Crusades
3. The Dark Ages
4. Iconic wars (including WWI and WWII)
6. The horrific rule of dictators
7. The extremes of poverty and excessive wealth
9. The untimely death of billions of people
10. Climate change and the destruction of nature.
We could go on because the consequences of evil are everywhere. But everything bad that the world has experienced is part of the cure. Each debilitating story and heartache adds to the weight of the argument against sin and unrighteousness! At the end of this dreadful journey, it will be clear to all why sin must not be allowed to continue.
The Answer to Our Question
The answer to the title question is found in God’s treatment of evil people.
“God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners” (Romans 5:8, NLT). How does God respond to evil people? He loves them! And by doing so, He risks people thinking He also loves their evil choices and actions—which He doesn’t! For clarification on this, read Proverbs 6:16-19.
The Parable Revealed
In the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32), God is the father, and the sons represent two kinds of depravity. The prodigal depicts those who throw caution to the wind and follow their hearts without pause for discernment, while the elder son represents those who embrace discernment to a fault. They are so discerning they cannot appreciate those who learn life’s lessons the hard way—because the idea is not that we learn but that we learn the right way. For the elder son, the only way to be included in the family was to work hard and behave; otherwise, you should be excluded.
The prodigal discovered his father’s love in a faraway country—from the religious influences of everything he had known. The elder brother was certain nothing of value could be learned elsewhere, especially in the university of hard knocks. For him, the key to success was to follow the formula he had constructed, which he did, but he did so with resentment and anger. Why should he have to “play by the rules” while his stupid brother squandered their father’s resources? He despised the concepts of mercy and grace.
Whether we identify with the prodigal or the elder brother, we are evil until we discover the transforming power of the father’s love. And once we do, we know exactly what to do with evil people.
If you enjoyed this, you might also enjoy The Anatomy of Evil
Rich DuBose writes from Northern California.