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?

Sermon ideas about evil

The webbing together of God, humans, and all creation in justice, fulfillment, and delight is what the Hebrew prophets call shalom (see separate essay on it, with biblical references). We translate shalom as "peace," but it means far more than just peace of mind or 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 its 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 in 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 (Jer. 4:6, e.g.) are prima facie evils, but not actual ones. God brings judgment on his 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

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 AIDS 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" (Revelation21:4).