Evil sermon ideas

Evil is disturbance of the way God wants things to be — that is, disturbance of the justice, fulfillment, harmony, and delight among God, all humanity, and all creation. Evil is vandalism of shalom.

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What does the Bible say about evil?

  • Genesis 50:20, evil is no match for God (God uses evil for good)
  • Judges 2:11-14, the evil of rebellion (Israel does evil by abandoning the Lord)
  • 2 Samuel 12:9, the evil of murder and abuse of power (King David does evil by having Uriah the Hittite killed and taking Uriah's wife)
  • Job 1:1, resisting evil (Job fears God and turns away from evil)
  • Job 30:26, the persistance of evil (Job experiences evil)
  • Psalm 51:4, evil transgressions (David repents of the evil he has done in God's sight)
  • Isaiah 1:16-17, call to repentance from evil (turn from evil and seek justice)
  • Jeremiah 4:6, warning of judgment for evil (Isaiah speaks against the evil of God's people)
  • Matthew 13:19, the evil one interferes (when you hear the word of the kingdom and do not understand it, the evil one comes)
  • Matthew 27:23, one who was without evil (Jesus is crucified though he has done no evil)
  • John 9:1-3, cause-and-effect and evil (blindness is not the result of evil)
  • Romans 12:9, reisiting evil (hate what is evil)
  • Romans 12:21, combatting evil (overcome evil with good)
  • Revelation 21:3-4, end of evil (evil is abolished in the new creation)

Sermon ideas about evil

Disrupting shalom 

In sermons about evil, one place to begin is to say what evil is not. The webbing together of God, humans, and all creation in justice, fulfillment, and delight is what the Hebrew prophets call shalom. We often translate shalom as peace, but it means far more than just peace of mind or a ceasefire between enemies. In the Bible, shalom means universal flourishing, wholeness, and delight — a rich state of affairs in which natural needs are satisfied and natural gifts fruitfully employed, a state of affairs that inspires joyful wonder as the Creator and Savior opens doors and speaks welcome to the creatures in whom God delights. Shalom, in other words, is the way things ought to be. In the biblical metanarrative, shalom was and will be the state of affairs at the beginning and end of history. 

Evil is whatever disrupts shalom. And, of course, the list of disruptors is depressingly long. In every season and every land, nature herself causes injury and death by way of fire, wind, water, lightning, or sudden burial under earth or snow. Birth disorders and disease cause still more harm. Human error causes still more evil, from mechanical accidents to car crashes to naval disasters. 

Then there are the miseries — loneliness, rootlessness, anxiety, a sense of futility, estrangement, shame over perceived personal inadequacy. There is an almost inexhaustible number of ways human beings can suffer, and evil is behind them all. 

Sin, the culpable disruption of shalom, is a subset of evil, and, again, the list of ways to sin (which itself causes misery) is almost inexhaustible. People attack or neglect each other. Parents abuse children, and those children go on to abuse their children. Tyranny, robbery, assault, malicious gossip, fraud, blasphemy, envy, idolatry, perjury, dereliction of duty, and a thousand other forms of sin disrupt the harmony God intends and inflict suffering on millions every day. 

Impetus for lament 

Evil, including sin, is the impetus for psalmists and others in scripture to lament the present evil state of affairs — and to long for the final coming of the kingdom of God — the return of shalom, when God will wipe away every tear. Sometimes psalmists lament what can only be called the mystery of evil, asking questions such as Why, Lord?, When, Lord?, How long, Lord?, or How soon, Lord? 

Prima facie evils? 

Some of the things called evil in the Old Testament (Jeremiah 4:6, for example) are prima facie evils — they only appear to be evil. God brings judgment on sinful people. Judgment brings suffering, which on the surface seems evil. But judgment may be justified. Then Israel's suffering may be a form of retributive justice and may ultimately be restorative — particularly when God tempers justice with mercy. 

The final restoration 

No sermon on evil can ignore the end of the story. Christians believe that at the center of the hope for final restoration of all things is the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the prince of shalom. Jesus' death includes absorption of evil without passing it back — a stoppage of evil. So an evil act (the crucifixion of an innocent Jesus) becomes in the mercy of God an event worth the name of its day: Good Friday. And Jesus' resurrection vindicates the hope of shalom by extending Jesus' triumph over evil. Roman tyranny could not defeat him; death could not hold him. 

Jesus' resurrection is the platform for every attempt by Christians to overcome evil with good. Every Christian hospital, college, orphanage, counseling service, housing ministry, and medical clinic builds on this platform. Christian hope of shalom builds on this platform. 

So Christians have to things to say about evil. It's real and tragic and awful. But it's not the end of the story. At the end of the story, mourning and crying and pain will be no more (Revelation 21:4). 

Excerpts about evil 

Following are sample excerpts from Zeteosearch sermon resources about evil: 

  • "The crucifixion speaks directly to that because Jesus in the crucifixion is taking upon himself all those traits and qualities of evil and wickedness that we ascribe to 'the other.' He has become 'the other' on his cross, and that's why it's the most relevant thing in the world." Article about Preaching by Fleming Rutledge in Religion and Ethics News Weekly 

  • "For now, we mostly rue the fact that all too often evildoers get away with it (and there are plenty of other psalms in the Hebrew Psalter that lament this very thing). But in the long run evil generates its own momentum, and it is most definitely a bad momentum." Sermon Preparation by Scott Hoezee from Center for Excellence in Preaching  

  • "One can, of course, parse and analyze evil, as the philosophers do. But evil is like Ebola: scientists need to analyze it and understand its nature and peer at it under a microscope. The rest of us just need to learn how to avoid it. In the same way, looking at the nature of evil under a philosophical microscope is okay, but more important is the knowledge of how to avoid being involved in it." Article about Theology by Lawrence Farley from Ancient Faith Ministries