On Sunday, January 5th, we started a new worship series called “The Line Between Good and Evil.” I had the opportunity to share the first message in the series, titled “The Struggle Between Good and Evil.” The series is inspired by Adam Hamilton and Church of the Resurrection. So, some of the material in the sermon is influenced, borrowed, and inspired by Hamilton. You can probably guess that Hamilton did not talk about “Sons of Anarchy” or chocolate covered cherries.
You can listen to the message by following this link…or you can read the manuscript below.
The Line Between Good & Evil: The Struggle Between Good & Evil
Sunday, January 5, 2014
Genesis 2:15-17; 3:6-7
This morning, we begin a five-week series dealing with “The Line Between Good & Evil”. The struggle between good and evil really is the defining story of the human condition. The struggle between good and evil is all around us.
We would like to think that we are more civilized, yet evil is a very apparent reality in our world today. Just watch the news, television programs, movies, read the Bible, or search within ourselves and it’s there…good versus evil. Every single day, we make choices between good and evil. We have all encountered evil…whether it’s in the small stuff we label as bad decisions or the obvious evil of abuse, addiction, crime, and violence.
Stories about the struggle between good and evil are abundant in film, television, and literature. So, I want you to share with your neighbor, what is your favorite story about good and evil?
Whether it’s on the news, in the movies, in our homes, schools, community, world, or inside of us, good and evil is all around us.
Currently, my favorite good versus evil story is “Sons of Anarchy. If you’ve not seen it, it’s the story of a rough and tough motorcycle gang. And, honestly, as one of your pastors, I probably shouldn’t be watching it.
Two of the main characters are Jax & Clay. Clay is the embodiment of evil – the man is pure evil. Any glimpse of good with clay is simply an attempt to deceive others and position himself to get his way. Jax, on the other hand, is a very intriguing character. Deep down, he wants good to triumph over evil. His character displays the struggle between good and evil. He wants the club to return to its roots and get out of the gun smuggling business. He desires to pursue the more honest business of drug smuggling and prostitution! Of course, he does a great deal of evil along the way. However, he feels it is all justified because it will bring about a greater good.
So, that’s my favorite story. What’s one thing that all of our favorite stories probably have in common? The hero. In most stories, good conquers evil. How many of you shared a favorite good versus evil story where evil won?
Let’s think about our story. In our story, as Christians, Jesus is the hero. He gave it all to conquer evil and calls us to spend our lives pushing back evil and darkness.
Now, we tend to use the word evil to describe degrees of badness. There is bad. And, then, there is evil. Evil is worse than bad.
There are various types of evil.
1. Doing wrong things in order to achieve self-gratification. It’s wrong, but it feels good, so I’ll do it.
2. Doing wrong things that will hurt others in order to achieve self-gratification. It’s wrong, it hurts others, but it feels good, so I’ll do it.
3. Intentionally hurting others in order to bring ourselves satisfaction. It feels good to hurt others. We get satisfaction in hurting others. We do what we know is wrong and simply don’t care what the consequences might be for others. We do it even though we know there will be painful consequences for others…and we get pleasure from this.
If we’re going to be honest with ourselves this morning, we would all be willing to admit that we struggle with the line between good and evil.
Think back to this morning’s Scripture.
– Adam and Eve struggled with the line between good and evil
– They are in the garden, living in the midst of perfection, walking in harmony with God
– They are given one rule
– They receive one offer from that sneaky snake that there might be an alternative to God’s story
– They make one decision that brought shame, guilt, embarrassment, and pain.
The point of the story in the garden is to see ourselves in the story.
– God has given us all this “good”
– God provides us with some parameters
– God gives us the freedom of choice
– And, we choose to operate within our outside God’s parameters.
How do you respond when someone tells you “no”? I can tell you how I respond…I want it more. I may not have even wanted whatever it is that bad, but once you said “no”; I’m all about it.
We’re not so different than Adam and Eve. We have everything. Yet we want the one thing we’re told we cannot have. So, we attempt to get as close to the line as we can. We can all hear that sneaky snake saying “Did God really mean that? Come on, just one bite. Just a little taste.”
So, like Paul in Romans 7, we struggle because what we want to do, we don’t do. But, the evil we want to avoid, well, that’s what we do.
Left un-checked, evil has the potential to devour us.
God provides these parameters…a path, if you will…
And sin is anything that causes us to stray from that path.
However, there is repentance.
And, when we repent, we return to the path.
This is our story- we’re on the path, we stray, we return, we stray, we return, etc.
There is a path – As Christians, Jesus is our path. Will we choose to follow?
The path we’re meant to follow is the path Jesus walked. To follow, to live as he lived. And, what does that path look like? Let us remember Micah 6:8, He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? Remember what Jesus told us in Matthew 25 about the two greatest commandments? To love God and to love one another as we love ourselves. That’s the path…to do justice, to love kindness, to walk humbly, to love God and one another.
The truth is, we stray. But, there is always grace. So, we struggle…maybe not to the level of Jax and Clay, but we all struggle…even with small acts of evil…such as speaking poorly of others, gossiping, telling half-truths, being selfish, not fully disclosing the condition of items we’re selling, fudging numbers at work, being unfaithful in our thoughts and actions, being abusive in words and actions.
One of my battles with evil comes in the form of chocolate covered cherries. They are so good. If I open a box, there as good as gone. I simply can’t help myself. I know they are bad for me. I know they are on the list of things my doctor told me to avoid. And, yet, here I am with a box of chocolate covered cherries. Does anyone not struggle with this? Seriously, if you’re not tempted by chocolate covered cherries, raise your hand. I’ve got to get rid of these things and go the way of the carrot.
Of course, there is good news. The good news is this…no one is beyond redemption. We’ve all strayed from the pat, but there is always grace. There is always redemption. The Christian faith isn’t about guilt – our story is about grace. That’s the good news! No matter how far we stray, no matter how heinous the evil we may have done, we can always, always, always return. Because our God is a God of new beginnings…of 2nd, 3rd, 1 millionth chances.
Are there consequences? Absolutely. But there is also grace. Hear the words of 2 Chronicles 7:14, if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, pray, seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. If we humble ourselves, pray, seek God, and desire to change our evil ways, God will be faithful to forgive and bring about healing! No one is beyond redemption. Say that with me, “No one is beyond redemption.”
Now we are left with this question: How do we overcome this struggle? How do we overcome evil? I believe there are three key steps:
1. Come to Christ with a desire to become new people – make a decision to follow.
2. Engage in Christian community. Today, you all are awesome because you have perfect attendance. Make a commitment to be here – to worship, to study, to pray, to remember, to grow, to listen, to give, to serve, to encourage one another, to point each other towards good.
3. Read Romans 12:9-21. To do good. We are called to overcome evil with good.
How are we doing good? We knocked it out of the park through our seasons of giving campaign (College Care Packs, Dimes for Turkeys, Jubilee, Kids Against Hunger), we have ministries like Feed the People and Feed the Kids, through our Christmas Eve offering, we raised over $3,000 for missions, and all of our mission and outreach ministries are doing amazing things. Get on board. Pray for these efforts. Give of your time, talents, and treasures towards our missional efforts, find ways each day to overcome evil by doing good!
We will face the struggle between good and evil every single day…How will we choose to respond? Will we walk the path of Jesus or make our own? Will you love God, love one another, do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with God?
May we go from this place bringing the light of Christ into the dark corners of our world, overcoming evil with good. Amen.