How Do Christians Respond to Evil in the World?

Often when horrible things happen in the world, like an elementary school massacre in Connecticut, I begin to wrestle with what Christians are supposed to do about it. The picture I saw painted in the conservative Evangelical environment I grew up in was of a culture war between good and evil, in which the fate of humanity hung in the balance. I learned that we needed to get Christians into public office and put laws in place to enforce biblical worldviews and morality, because that is the only way to save the world. But the more that I’ve learned, the less that picture seems to line up with who Jesus is and what he taught his disciples.

In Christ we see that the nature of things is not so much good versus evil, but Good for evil. In His life we see Good choosing to dwell with evil, mourning over its evilness, and healing its brokenness. In His cross we see Good laying down His life for evil. And in His resurrection we see Good bringing about the end of evil and death. Evil has already been overcome once and for all in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Things are not so much about good versus evil because Jesus has already defeated evil! If we truly believe this and begin to wrap our minds around it, it will radically reshape the way that we live in the world. But when we stray from this truth, we cannot help but live in fear and a mode of self-preservation. We forget that Christ has already won the victory, and begin to believe that we must be the ones to finish what he started.

But our position must not be Christians versus the world. Rather it should be Christians for the world, in the same way that Christ came, out of love, for the world (John 3:16). Jesus does not call us to enlist in a culture war for better morals that will determine the fate of humanity—he has already taken care of that. He calls us to love the world as He does, and to show the world who He is. Our job is not to conquer evil (as if we could do so); the only One capable of doing that has already done it. No, our purpose is to dwell with evil, to mourn over its evilness, and to be the hands and feet of Christ in healing its brokenness.

Our hope must not be that evil will someday be defeated through Christians taking hold of the public sphere and wielding power to enforce moral behavior. Evil was defeated by Jesus during a Passover celebration in 33 A.D., and his disciples must now live accordingly. We need not worry when evil appears to be more powerful than good, because we know this appearance to be false. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote from his Nazi prison cell, “No evil can befall us; whatever men may do to us, they cannot but serve the God who is secretly revealed as love and rules the world and our lives.”

This is not to say that we should not oppose evil in all its forms, for we certainly should. But we must do so with the conscious knowledge that Christ has already won the victory, and that our opposition need no longer stem from fear and desperation. When our opposition to evil stems instead from a desire to see the evildoer redeemed, then we have begun to love the world as Christ has loved it (and us).