When talking of evil, there are some forms that are obvious. Flip on the television each night and you will see example after example of evil actions from individual people – violence, theft, coercion, murder, etc. However, individual evil is only one aspect of this problem. As our church looked at Sunday, Herod’s beheading of John the Baptist (Mark 6:14-29) was fraught with evil on a corporate and institutional level. In preparing my sermon, this quote got left out due to time constraints:
“Evil is found not only in the demonic but also in the centers of power, both political and religious. The strong, driven by the forces of sex, money, and power, ‘lord over’ those who are weak. In this passage, we are forced to face a world that is in opposition to the innocent, a world where injustice and brutal power prevail.” (Cheryl Johns)
This passage reminded me of other passages I have read. I have been long-inspired by the writings of the late Walter Wink. I believe him to be a brilliant theologian that we need to wrestle with in the church more. This particular passage resonates with the one above and reminds us that evil is more than just a personal reality.
“The biblical understanding is that no institution exists as an end in itself, but only to serve the common good. The principalities and powers themselves are created in and through and for Christ, according to Colossians 1:16, which means that they exist only on behalf of the humanizing purposes of God revealed by Jesus – and by all others who were in touch with that divine reality as well.
“Many businesses and corporation executives ignore God’s humanizing purposes, and speak rather of profit as the ‘bottom line.’ But this is a capitalist heresy. According to the eighteenth century philosopher of capitalism Adam Smith, businesses exist to serve the general welfare. Profit is the means, not the end. It is the reward a business receives for serving the general welfare. When a business fails to serve the general welfare, Smith insisted, it forfeits its right to exist. It is part of the church’s task to remind corporations and businesses that profit is not the ‘bottom line,’ that as creatures of God they have as their divine vocation the achievement of human well-being (Ephesians 3:10). They do not exist for themselves. They were bought with a price (Col. 1:20). They belong to the God who ordains sufficiency for all.
“The relevance of the Powers for an understanding of evil should by now be clear. Evil is not just personal but structural and spiritual. It is not simply the result of human actions, but the consequence of huge systems over which no individual has full control. Only by confronting the spirituality of an institution and its physical manifestations can the total structure be transformed. Any attempt to transform a social system without addressing both its spirituality and its outer forms is doomed to failure. Materialism knowns nothing of an inner dimension, and is blind to its effects.”
Walter Wink, The Powers That Be: Theology for a New Millennium
Obviously, this is just one example, but it gets us thinking about evil on a macro level. It gets us out of the obvious and forces us to grapple with the spirit of anti-Christ all around us. (Not in the Left Behind kind of way, but in those things that are opposed to the Kingdom of God embodied in Jesus.)
I’m interested, where do you see evil at work? What forms does evil take in your day-to-day life that often go unnoticed? How do we go about confronting this hidden face of evil in our world and offering a new reality based on love, peace, and wholeness?