“Mom, have you ever seen an evil person?” This was the thought-provoking question my 7-year old posited to me when he was lying on his bed last night. I was praying with the kids for protection, health, good dreams, their obedience, etc. (Edric usually does this nightly routine but he was doing a show with Suze Orman for On the Money. So I was filling in for him.)
Well, Edan asked about the thieves that broke into our home many years ago when I was a teenager. It was too late to go into a lengthy discussion about that. But, I tried to explain to him that sometimes we think that people who do things like steal are evil. However, we can all be evil. Like, when we don’t obey God…that’s evil.
Many of us have a certain image that we associate with evil. We think of the Cleveland guy, Ariel Castro, who abducted, raped, and held Michelle Knight, Georgina Dejesus, and Amanda Berry captive for 10 years.
It broke my heart to imagine what it was like for the families to grieve over their missing daughters and for the victims to endure such a nightmare. Talk about hell on earth!
The news often highlights many other forms of crazy and it makes me deeply concerned for my children, to say the least. I look at my kids and treasure their innocence. If anyone were to steal or pollute that, I would be devastated.
Yet, the reality is there is no way to shield them completely from the godlessness that is present in this world. Edric and I can prepare them and arm them with the truth, but there is no bubble that they can float around in, completely untouched and unscathed. Why? The scarier reality is all our children have been hard-wired to sin, just like us. Our predisposition is toward selfishness and self-gratifying behavior. In today’s terminology, we might call such a person who acts upon their selfish inclinations, a sociopath. Okay, I’m not saying that all people are sociopaths but look at the description. Doesn’t it sound like many people we know, including our children, and ourselves (maybe not all the time, but at least some of the time?!).
What is a sociopath? Someone who…
- Does not learn from experience
- Has no sense of responsibility
- Is unable to form meaningful relationships
- Is unable to control impulses
- Lack of moral sense
- Has chronically antisocial behavior
- Displays no change in behavior after punishment
- Lack of emotional maturity
- Lack of guilt
Supposedly, this Antisocial Personality Disorder is said to begin at adolescence and is chronic. Really?! I’ve seen this sort of behavior exhibited by my children very early on which tells me that it seems to be inherent to the human person. But who will listen to me? I’m not a psychologist or a doctor who does clinical analysis. I’m just a mom who has to deal with addressing this tendency in my kids every day.
I have four wonderful children and I would like to believe that they are good and lovable. I wouldn’t want them lumped together with offenders who murder, commit adultery, steal, cheat, and rape. But they do act in undesirable and hurtful ways, especially when they aren’t trained or taught otherwise.
I’ve had my two year-old Tiana ignore me completely and walk away while I am talking to her. I’ve seen my boys get really angry and emotionally wound one another. At times, they struggle with admitting wrong and asking for forgiveness. One of them used to hit his siblings without conscience.
And what about myself? I’ve had moments when I’ve entertained thoughts of strangling or slapping my children out of frustration. Praise God I have never done so! But, if someone were to peer into my brain and itemize every wrong thought I’ve ever had, I would be ashamed of my crimes!
Personally, I feel that the many explanations given to understand the criminally inclined may help society and governments prioritize medication, the law, greater sanctions and penalties, controlled environments and better parenting to create boundaries that prevent people from hurting others, but they won’t solve the real problem.
The core issue is that evil resides in our hearts. It hatches at childhood and steers us like a compass. Deep inside, my children and I are no better than those who actually abuse others. We are not a higher class of good or righteousness. The only reason why our impulses and carnality are in check is because we have a greater power at work in our lives – the Holy Spirit.
When my children decided to make Jesus the Lord and Savior of their lives, they received the Holy Spirit. I saw the evidence of His fruit in their lives. Titus used to whine, cry, and sulk when he didn’t get his way. It was a struggle to teach him how to obey and listen. But, when he turned three years old, Edric shared the gospel message with him and he made a personal decision to acknowledge his sin and give his life to Jesus. A few weeks later, my mom noticed how different he was. When she told him he couldn’t have something that he wanted, he replied, “Okay, grandma,” without being upset or frustrated. Whoa. This was not Titus. This was the work of the Lord in his heart!
Galatians 5:22-23 says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.”
The Bible tells us that the secret to overcoming the flesh or sin is to be controlled by the Holy Spirit. When it comes to parenting my children, I appeal to the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives. During occasions when I sense that their will is pitted against mine or they are not ready to listen, I pray for them and I ask them to check their hearts (especially my older children). I am witness to the unseen war between their flesh and the Spirit. They must learn to surrender to the Lord or the flesh will win.
Galatians 5:16-17 “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please…”
When I observe my children, I look for proof of their relationship with Christ – evidence of the fruit of the Spirit. Until this is apparent, I cannot assume that they have really come into a personal relationship with Jesus.
Romans 8:9-11 tells us, “But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.”
Ariel Castro actually posted on his Facebook page on May 2, “miracles really do happen, God is good.” In the meantime, he was holding three women and a child in captivity, against their will. Did he really know God? From the evidence, I don’t think so. He was living a dichotomy. No one figured him for a criminal until his secret was uncovered. Maybe he didn’t think himself such a bad guy either. I read that his intention is to plead not guilty. Wow.
We may not commit crimes like Castro did but we can be guilty of the same sort of dichotomy in our thinking. When our standard of morality is of our own making, we may be tempted to think, I’m not so awful. I’m not like the psycho in Cleveland. But that is a very relative plumb line. The standard for goodness cannot be people or ourselves because we are fallen to begin with. Just look at any two-year old who hasn’t been disciplined or taught obedience. It’s called terrible twos for a reason!
He displays the same sort of sinfulness that adults struggle with – the flesh that sets itself against God, a heart that is bent on rebellion. The Bible tells us every person “falls short” of the glory of God. This is the bad news. God’s holiness and goodness are the standard and we don’t make the cut. In fact, there is nothing we can do to merge the gap. But the good news, the gospel is that God, in his love, provided a solution through his son Jesus Christ.
John 1:29 The next day he saw Jesus coming to him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”
Because we are sinful, we cannot clean ourselves out. This requires supernatural intervention. The cure for sin (also known as evil) is Jesus who makes us right with God, and the ability to resist falling into sin comes from the power of the Holy Spirit. Unless we embrace this truth, atrocities will continue as foretold in God’s word. Unless our children embrace this truth, they will grow up with a predisposition toward evil.
2 Timothy 3:1-7 “But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these. For among them are those who enter into households and captivate weak women weighed down with sins, led on by various impulses, always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.”
What sobers me as a mom is recognizing that I am responsible to teach my kids about Jesus. Edric and I, as parents, have been commissioned to do so. We cannot close our eyes and hope that our children will grow up with a knowledge of God and a desire to live for him. No way. We have got to pay close attention to what is going on in their hearts and steer them towards God.
When my children start trending towards selfish behavior, I ask them, “Who is in your heart?” They will answer, “Jesus.” “If Jesus is in your heart, will he want you to act the way you are acting? Are you making him happy or sad by what you are doing?” At this question, they will pause, think, and answer honestly.
“What will make Jesus happy?” is usually a good follow up question. And depending on the circumstance, they will tell me “I need to be kind.” Or, “I need to forgive.” Or, “I should share.” Or, “I have to change my attitude.” These heart checks have helped them to discern whether they are controlled by their evil-prone selves or controlled by the Holy Spirit. And because they do belong to the Lord, they have the desire to please him and do what is right in God’s eyes. But the key is to focus on their relationship with Christ. This is the foundation, the starting point. From there Edric and I can teach our children to be spirit-filled vs. self-filled. We can talk about what is moral and right in accordance with God’s standards and commands. Of course, Edric and I have to role-model the same or we become a counterweight and stumbling block to our children’s spiritual growth.
So…to answer the question, “Have you ever seen an evil person?” I sure have. Myself. Apart from God…apart form his grace and love through his son, Jesus Christ…and apart from the enablement of his Holy Spirit to reject evil. I like how 1 John 3:23-24 simplifies it all…“This is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as He commanded us. The one who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him.We know by this that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us.”
Do we believe in Jesus? If we do, we will love one another.
Do we keep his commandments? If we do, we remain in Him. There is continual evidence of the Holy Spirit in our lives.