|In February 1986, I wrote a Bottom Line commentary entitled, “Have We Crossed the Line?” It dealt with the distinction between sin and evil and how God has presented His feelings on this subject in several ways. The issue I wrestled with three decades ago is even more relevant now.
When 9/11 took place, many of us asked ourselves the same question: “Has God removed a shield of protection from the United States due to systemic sins?” In those days, it centered on abortion policy, gay rights, and the general moral erosion in our nation. Do any of you, my readers, want to contrast where we are as a nation today and where we were thirty-one years ago? Indeed, at least a dozen people have publicly asked the same question I was asking back then. With this year’s deluge of hurricane damage, the situation in Puerto Rico, the Las Vegas shootings, and the recent, unprecedented fires in my city of Santa Rosa (an estimated 6,800 structures burned including 2,900 homes), the question remains, “Has some spiritual barrier been crossed?”
Those familiar with President Abraham Lincoln’s second inaugural address dealing with the Civil War (a must-read) are aware this question has been dealt with before in our nation’s history. For me, I have no “God said” answer, but I think the question is relevant. Go back with me now to February 1986:
The Bottom Line – February 1986
“Have We Crossed the Line?” By Dennis Peacocke
While both sin and evil are both fatal spiritually, there is a significant difference between them, and upon that difference hangs our future. In terms of the United States, if our national sins develop into the more advanced and terminal stages of evil, then a mere revival will be insufficient to save us. The only cure will be God’s hard-ball judgement.
The Scriptures give many examples of the difference between sin and evil. Simply stated, sin is a propensity or a natural tendency to break God’s law. By its very nature, sin is impulsive—something we do because we feel like it. Evil, on the other hand, is a much more advanced form of the disease of disobedience. Evil is premeditated, planned, and a strategized disobedience. While sin turns the sinner away from God, the evil man actually attacks and challenges God’s very being. And it’s not just individuals who are capable being sinful or evil; nations are too. Sometime back, President Reagan made headlines when he referred to the Soviet Union as an “evil empire.” He was alluding to the fact that the Soviets are carrying out a premeditated, systematic assault on biblical values and institutions. They are not impulsively sinful; they are premeditatively evil.
Let me give you three clear, biblical examples of the difference between sin and evil which demonstrate how God deals more severely with evil because of its aggressive assault against His sovereignty:
- The Noahic Flood:
Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. —Genesis 6:5
While God has patience and provision for the impulsive sinner, the premeditatively evil man cannot be convicted by the Holy Spirit and changed. He is “past feeling” (1 Timothy 4:2) and must be judged. God could still work with Adam’s sons and daughters who were sinful, but He had to rid the earth of those who crossed over the line from impulsive sin into planned evil.
- The difference between killing and murder:
The literal meaning of the Fifth Commandment is, “You shall not murder,” rather than the idea of doing no killing. To murder is to take a life for your own purposes or reasons, and it is usually premeditated. To kill, on the other hand, may be accidental in self-defense or to fulfill the biblically mandated commandment of capital punishment. In Israel, he who committed murder (the evil act of planned destruction) was to be executed. One who killed by accident was able to find sanctuary in a city of refuge because God viewed him as a sinner rather than evil (Exodus 21:12-14).
- The severity of King David’s judgement:
God judged King David severely because of his sin with Bathsheba. If he had sinned by sleeping with her, that would have been one thing, but he planned her husband’s death and that kind of evil brought calamitous results on David’s house and the whole nation of Israel.
While sin is a reproach to any people (Proverbs 14:34), when evil is found in the very fabric of a society and its institutions, it is an unqualified disaster. When the law base and social and economic structures of a nation actually plan and devise institutional evils against God, that system cannot be revived; it must be overhauled and restructured. The following diagram may be of help in understanding this:
A Sinful Nation:
|An Evil Nation:
|Institutions and laws aligned with biblical laws and practices.
||Institutions and laws generally opposed to biblical laws; practices and policies are devised and executed to attack God’s laws.
|People who sin and need to be revived to God’s point of view.
||People whose lifestyle is premeditatively evil; institutions must be judged to stop their wickedness and expansion.
We are seeing examples of evil in laws and policies increasing at an alarming rate here in the United States. The abortion laws, the state-supported policies of Planned Parenthood, and many of the policies of the National Education Association are examples that spring quickly to mind. The Soviet Bloc’s mass murder of over 10,000 priests at its founding and its ongoing war against God qualifies it as a truly evil empire. It is expansionist, ruthless, smart, and Christ-hating to the core.
The question facing our nation and indeed the world at large is this: “Have the institutions and laws of the culture crossed over the line which distinguishes sin from evil?” A nation that is evil cannot be revived… It must be judged. If the United States does not repent from its sin, it will continue on its path toward evil and destruction. As Christ’s servant, only the Church can save it. Too often, I’m sorry to say, the Church doesn’t want to serve—it is more concerned with getting blessed. I wonder how blessed it will feel if national evil ends up forcing God to pull out the rug from under it.
Praying for revival, not judgement. And that is…