Children movies are intentionally easy to understand; the forces of good, often represented by softer and brighter colored figures, take on the forces of evil, those mean harsh people dressed in blacks and reds. What happens when we step out of the realm of childhood and into the world of people? Most people are a mixed bag between sinful actions and normal-every-day-life. A person can criticize and tear you down with the harshest words, while serving you a fresh baked apple pie. Why does it seem like evil and the mundane coexist?
Notice that the question above doesn’t ask how evil and good coexist. The Bible is clear that the light and darkness have nothing to do with each other. God created a good world. We know why evil exists (Adam’s sin in the garden). We recognize that evil and good do not mix. The problem lies with mankind. How can an average Joe also be a sinner?
Consider Genesis 4:17-25. In this passage we have the Line of Cain, called the children of the devil in 1 John 3:11-15, on display. Cain’s family line did some amazing things. One son, Jabal, invented animal husbandry. Another son, Jubal, is said to have invented the first musical instruments. The next time you want to ‘rock-out’ with the lute and lyre, thank this guy. And Tubal-Cain, yet another son, invented the first bronze/iron tools. Impressive feats.
Adah and Zillah, had the privilege of having very successful sons. But for every song Jubal wrote for his mother, she had to endure the nightmare of her husband’s physical and verbal abuse. Lamech, the father, composed a song for Adah and Zillah. It isn’t a love song. It’s a song glorifying abusing women. “Adah and Zillah, listen to me; wives of Lamech, hear my words,” Lamech sings, “I have killed a man for wounding me, a young man for injuring me. If Cain is avenged seven times, then Lamech seventy-seven times.” Abuse (both physical and verbal) is always a characteristic of children of the devil. The Bible offers a clear diagnosis of humanity: the best we can put forward is a facade, and we hide things far worse than even the humblest of us admit.
What is the solution? How do we overcome the multiplication of evil? How do we address the fact that we tend to share much in common with Lamech? Despite Cain being in the line of evil, there is another line of man which comes from Adam.
“How many times shall I forgive my brother?” Peter asks (Matt. 18:22). Jesus takes up Lamech’s song, but he wrote some new lyrics. “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” If Lamech will sing about multiplying sin, Jesus sings about multiplying grace. We don’t look past people’s sin. We don’t neglect to treat the wounds of abuse. We do apply the healing balm of grace. The parable of the Unmerciful Servant is a hard story to read. It means the guy who is a good business man, who slandered my name, needs forgiveness. It means the errant husband, who is loving to his kids but neglectful to his wife, needs forgiveness. It means the adulterous wife, whose loneliness overcame her better judgment, needs forgiveness. It means we forgive because God first forgave us.
It doesn’t take a psychopath to commit evil, just the normal human heart. Evil and normal coexist within us. But grace and forgiven people, saved people, coexist as well. Is there anyone you fear, disown, criticize, or hold a resentment towards? What are you doing about it?* “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). We must do the same.