Was he crazy?
For the last few months, you can’t drive down a street in our city and not see the blue ribbons. Each one a painful reminder of one of the most horrific events that has ever happened here.
Even thinking about such events turns my stomach and makes my head dizzy with questions. Probably yours too.
Who could do such things to little children?
Sadly I fear we answer that question wrongly.
On one side we excuse evil by saying, “They are sick!” On the other we say, “How crazy do you have to be…”
The issue is that when people are evil, sickness or craziness has little to do with it.
Evil exists apart from being crazy, or from being sick.
This kind of response comes from our country that has lost the category given to us in Genesis 3: The category of sin.
In Genesis 3, Adam and Eve plunged humanity into a state of evil – not a state of sickness, or of craziness (those were consequences of a now broken world).
Evil isn’t a thing to catch like a sickness.
Nor is evil a thing you should fear will happen to you if you go crazy.
Sadly, evil is already in us.
Now I know that isn’t a popular idea, but it’s one that Jesus taught. He said:
“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.”¹
That is a lot of evil things, and they come from our hearts.
This is a good warning: we all have the potential for horrible things.
Why is it a good warning?
Because we are given a chance to watch our hearts and our decisions.
No one just wakes up and decides to become Adolf Hitler or Ted Bundy. Rather, there is a long trail of smaller evil choices that we make throughout our lives.
A husband’s choice to stay angry at his wife leads to her choice to stonewall him. This choice leads to bad-mouthing his wife at work, which becomes a habit. She closes off. And evil choice upon evil choice eventually leads to the horrible choice of divorce.
This is how evil works; one small evil choice at a time, until a grave evil looks like the only choice.
It is the same for everyone who commits horrible evil.
It began long ago with one justified evil choice. Then another. And then another. Until the good choices didn’t even seem close.
As a Christian, however, you have the advantage of the Holy Spirit.
You don’t have to choose the evil no matter how bad it gets.
See, God’s presence gives you both good new options and the power to choose them.
When we do that, our soul is righted away from evil so more good choices open before us.
As we make a habit of good choices, it changes our character to be good, like Christ.
This used to be called sanctification and it is available to all humans through Jesus.
It begins when evil people see their evil and say it is evil. Then they accept Jesus to pay for that punishment in eternity and rightly face the earthly consequences with confidence that they are right with God, and that their punishment is also right.
But, I bet if an evil person did just that, we’d probably call them crazy…
¹ Mark 7:21–22, ESV