The majority of Americans see good/evil on a spectrum. At the far end of good you have God and Jesus being the embodiment of good. Then spread down toward the middle you have Mother Teresa, Mister Rogers, etc. until you get to the division point. At the opposite far end you have Satan as the embodiment of evil. Then Adolf Hitler, Saddam Hussein, etc. until you reach the middle again. The points in between God and Satan represent increasing level of good or evil in someone's life.
Most of us see ourselves somewhere toward middle. We aren't perfectly good. We aren't totally evil.
But scripture doesn't present good and evil on a sliding scale. Good is good. Evil is evil.
There are some who take the sides of good and evil and flip flop them. Good can be evil or evil good depending on the perspective you have. Classical example: Robin Hood. Is it good to steal and break the law? Modern example: 9/11. Those who seized the planes and crashed them were doing evil in the eyes of the majority of the world. But for themselves and others of similar perspective what they did was for good. Isaiah speaks to this, though. Isaiah 5:20 reads
Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil ;
Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness;
Who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!
Just because something seems good from a perspective, it shouldn't be called good if it is truly evil.
The Scriptures point to 3 views of evil: absence of good; good is the exception; and it is a choice.
1 John 3:7-10 1 John 3:7-10
7 Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; 8 the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil. 9 No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. 10 By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother.
John writes in such a way to leave some with the impression that if someone does sin (a work of the devil - the embodiment of evil) then they are not a child of God. And this leaves some to doubt the ability of God to save them. But sin is a human condition. And Christ has come to destroy the works of the devil through the forgiveness of sins.
Does this mean that we will never sin? No. It means that when (if is better, but let's be realistic) we sin, Jesus Christ has already purchased the forgiveness of that sin in his life, death, and resurrection. But in substance sin/works of the devil/evil is the absence of good in a person's life.
13 Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. 14 "For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.
The next view of evil is that it is the norm. Being good is the exception. The life of evil ends in destruction. And it is a wide and open road. But the life that leads to eternity and fullness is narrow and small. Few will find it. It's easy to do evil. It is even easier to do nothing while evil happens around us. So that way is wide and takes no effort. The life of good requires us to change, become, grow. So it is the exception.
Now, therefore, fear the LORD and serve Him in sincerity and truth; and put away the gods which your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. 15 "If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD."
For Joshua the answer to good and evil is very easy. We must choose. Good or evil results from a choice that we have to make. It is something that occurs over and over everytime we must choose. Sometimes the choice seems insignificant and of no great importance. Sometimes it is a life altering choice. But each choice we make, conscious or unconscious, will result in good or evil.
Sunday's sermon will focus on The Evil Deeds Men Do.