Q: “How are we supposed to avoid evil when it’s all around us in our culture?“ - Candace D.
A: Somewhere along the line, Christians got the idea that we’re supposed to run and hide from evil. That we’re supposed to close our ears and keep anything that seems against what we believe away from us. So, churches end up being a community of people who lock themselves up, stay away from the world, and want anything that makes us feel uncomfortable to be kicked out or made to feel not welcome.
But, this is wrong! Now, if you have a weakness to a certain temptation, then you try to avoid that temptation as much as possible until you’re strong enough to handle it. But, otherwise, we should be showing light into the dark areas of the world.
Jesus is the light of the world, and when Jesus is in us and we have given Him full control over our lives, Jesus’ light shines through us. And we are meant to let that light shine into the evil parts of the world, the parts that need Jesus’ love the most.
Sadly, that’s not what churches tend to do. Either they stay away from dark areas and lock themselves up in a place where only they can enjoy the light, or they go to the dark areas not to share light but instead to participate in the darkness. Now, if you are ENJOYING the dark areas, then you are doing it for the wrong reasons! And if those people and places are having more of an influence on you than you are on them, then you aren’t strong enough yet to handle it.
For instance, if you’ve recently come out of the partying lifestyle, then you should cut ties with the people who will bring you back down and avoid those types of places. Eventually, though, you WILL be strong enough to use your past experience as a great testimony and be able to be around those types of people and places and be a strong witness to them.
But, even then, as is the case with all places in need of Jesus, just being around that darkness will wear on you. That’s why it’s important to go to church and stay in fellowship with other believers who can support you, hold you accountable, and rejuvenate you spiritually so you can go back out into the mission field and shine the light of Jesus to the people and places that need it the most.
It may make us uncomfortable to go to places and be around people who aren’t like us, but that doesn’t mean we’re better than them. It doesn’t mean that we should run away from them, or kick them out.
Imagine two different groups of Christians
One is your typical Christian church group who do everything the old-fashioned way. They were born into Christian families and raised in the church. They’re clean-cut, they don’t drink, smoke, chew, or hang around people who do.
The second group of Christians are people who’ve grown up on the streets, in bad homes, or come from prison. They’ve SEEN how bad the world is and they’ve seen how DESTRUCTIVE sin has been in their lives and are now fully devoted to God and following Him. They smell, they’re crude, they have more spicy language, they smoke, they’re loud, and they have tattoos.
The first group looks down on the second group because they look like sinners, they’re crude, sometimes have shocking language, and don’t look like what they think Christians should look like. They see that group to be sinful and try to avoid them and keep them out of their church functions.
The second group looks down on the first group because they seem like judgmental, prideful, hypocritical, gossipy Christians. They see that judgmental group as sinful and try to avoid them and keep them out of THEIR church functions.
The truth is, that BOTH of these groups are wrong. Both are looking down at the other, being judgmental, and making assumptions about righteousness based on things that they’re uncomfortable with.
Just because a person looks like a low-class convict or gang member doesn’t mean they aren’t totally sold-out to God. And just because a person is clean-cut and feels uncomfortable around those who seem lower class, doesn’t mean they are prideful, hypocrites.
We’re almost always wrong!
It’s so important to realize that your opinions about other people are almost always wrong. That’s just a fact of life. Studies have shown that we are absolutely awful at guessing the cause of other people’s actions. And the more you learn, the more you realize that you don’t know.
Just because a person acts and dresses differently than you, doesn’t mean that their heart isn’t in the right place. Even if they’re doing things that God has convicted you of many years ago, you don’t know what order God is choosing to convict THEM. Maybe God’s busy working with them on something that’s more important at the moment than bad language or some dirty show they like to watch.
And just because they continually struggle with something doesn’t mean they aren’t working at it. Everyone has areas that they really struggle with and keep failing at despite how much they want to change. You may not struggle with the same things they struggle with, but you have your own areas of struggle.
And if you don’t have anything that you currently struggle with, then you have stopped seeking God. Because as you seek God, He will constantly be convicting you of new things for you to work on. He will hold you to a higher standard. You’ll never be perfect here on earth, there are always things God wants to work with you on.
Look from God’s perspective
So, instead of seeing each other as either being a better or worse Christian…instead of seeing each other as either righteous or unrighteous, see every Christian as a work in progress. And instead of looking at the distance between each other’s level of progress, focus on the distance between where we are in comparison to the perfection of God.
The distance between each other is almost non-existent in comparison to the distance between us and God! None of us have the right to look down on anyone. We’re all sinners who are deserving of Hell, but Jesus traded places with us and went through our punishment for us. He traded His perfect free life for our sinful lives. So, when God looks at His followers, as imperfect as they may be, He doesn’t see our sinful life that we traded, He sees Jesus’s perfect free life that we traded for.
If that’s what God sees when He looks at a fellow Christ follower, then we should see that too!
And just because a person hasn’t given their life to Christ yet, it doesn’t mean that God isn’t working on them. We have no way of knowing what God is doing with them or how much progress He’s making. Very often, the people who seem furthest away from being saved are actually the closest.
Because we have no way of knowing what God is doing in their lives, we shouldn’t judge them.
Strippers need Jesus!
Instead of being afraid of the dark places of life, we should go and show God’s light there. The more evil the place or the people, the more they need us! For example, there’s a great ministry that focuses on strip clubs. Obviously, men can’t go, because that’s a weakness that all straight men have. But, the women go to strip clubs in their area and help the strippers with things they might need and be a shoulder they can cry on, someone they can talk to. There’s a lot of hurting going on behind the scenes of strip clubs. By going there, they are showing God’s love to these hurting girls. And by showing God’s love, God is able to court them into hopefully entering into a relationship with Him.
A friend of mine was a part of this ministry while she was going to school at a private Christian university. But, because she was in the ministry program there studying to become a children’s pastor she was told that if she continued to be a part of this strip club ministry she would be severely punished. Why? Because she was going to places they believed to be bad. Sad, isn’t it?
Be careful what you wish for…
Here’s another example from the church I grew up in. One of the teens brought a friend to church who got saved. And not only did this friend get saved, he became a great evangelist. Because of that kid’s evangelism at school, the teen group started having close to 100 unchurched kids attending on Wednesday nights.
That sounds great, but the church was completely unprepared. Many parents who were long time attenders got upset and took their kids out because they didn’t want their kids to be around all the bad kids. Eventually, the kids were made to feel UNWELCOME enough that pretty much all of them stopped coming. Now the church can get back to normal, feeling comfortable not having “unchurched” people around.
So not only did they not want to go to where those kids are, they also didn’t want those kids coming to THEM! Why? Because they wanted to stay away from the evil!
If you are in the center of God’s will, God will protect you. God won’t send you to do something without giving you everything you need to do it.
For example, when I was in college I went to a shady McDonalds at 2 in the morning and was met with a prostitute who said she needed a ride. I felt God wanted me to help her. Now, keep in mind that in real life streetwalking prostitutes are very different than the way they’re portrayed on TV. She looked homeless, smelled, and was an obvious drug addict. This is not a woman who would in any way shape or form be a temptation to me. Plus, I didn’t know she was a prostitute until later, anyway.
She needed to make a bunch of stops, which included her asking me if I could take scary looking guys she knew to certain places. I felt like I should do it, so I did. When I tell people that story they often freak out, like I was being irresponsible, putting myself in danger. As if God would tell me to do something and then not protect me.
Because I knew I was doing God’s will, I didn’t have any fear at all. I knew 100% for sure that God was with me. And if God needed to make an angel appear to scare off those who wanted to hurt me, He would. And in fact, that very thing has happened twice to a relative of mine. He’s been in the mission field for a long time and encountered some of the most dangerous situations out there. The God we serve is 100% real, and so are His promises!
I asked why she was a prostitute instead of getting a real job and she told me that there are a bunch of warrants out for her arrest because she was caught manufacturing drugs back in middle school. She told me that if I knew her I never would have picked her up. She said that everyone in that area knows her and despises her. I don’t know why, I didn’t ask. But, what became very apparent in hearing her story was that even though that area is right by a private Christian University and more churches than you can shake a stick at, she lived in a completely separate world from any of them. She never saw ANY of those church people, and none of THEM would ever go NEAR her world. And if they ever DID meet, the church people would run away from her.
In response, I told her about Jesus and how He ate with tax-collectors and prostitutes. Religious leaders would turn their noses up at them, but Jesus offered them His love and salvation. These are the places Jesus went and the type of people Jesus hung around and showed love to. He didn’t just give them some money and run away. He had relationships with them and showed them that He didn’t look down on them, but instead gave them love.
She said she remembered that story, and in fact had just recently started reading her bible. It was definitely no coincidence that she asked me for a ride. This was something God had been working on.
Christians tend to see darkness as something to run away from instead of something in desperate need of the light that they have. But, when we run away, Jesus’ light goes to waste.
There’s also another strange way Christians desperately try to avoid evil. They avoid it intellectually.
You see, many Christians don’t ever really DEAL with their doubts, so they try desperately to ignore them. Instead of admitting that it’s okay to have doubts about God or the bible and working through them, they think those doubts are evil and try to avoid them. But, you can’t get rid of doubts by avoiding them, all that does is push the doubts deep down inside where they do the most damage.
In fact, it is these hidden doubts that are a large part of the reason Christians want to avoid the kinds of places Jesus went and the kind of people Jesus hung around. If they really truly believed that God is real and that His promises can be depended on, then they would have no reason to worry and nothing to fear. If they truly believed, then God would be their number one priority. If they truly believed, then they would see that sharing God’s love with “those who need it the most” is much more important than their own comfort or safety.
This avoidance of doubt also causes Christians to stay away from conversations that may challenge their faith or knowledge that may cause them to question what they believe to be true. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tried to talk about evolution or certain scientific discoveries with Christians who acted like I had just turned into the devil and like they’d be sinning just by allowing my words to penetrate their ears.
But, it’s OKAY to be challenged. In fact, it’s necessary! Doubts are okay. It doesn’t make you a bad Christian to have doubts, but AVOIDING your doubts can make you an INEFFECTIVE one!
Trust me on these 3 things…
1. There will always be things you can’t understand.
2. There will always be problems that don’t have any easy answers.
3. There will always be things about life and Christianity that you’re wrong about.
The solution isn’t to avoid these things and pretend they don’t exist, that’s the worst thing you can do. The solution is to accept these 3 things, and do the best you can to work through them.
1. There will always be things you can’t understand.
Okay, so there’ll always be things you can’t understand. What do you do? You try to read the bible as much as you can, ask questions to anyone and everyone you think might have the answer, research online, and pray that God would reveal the answer to you. If you still can’t find the answer, then just accept that this is something you don’t understand right now. Hopefully, someday you’ll find the answer, but if you don’t, that’s okay.
God is impossible for us to completely understand, we just try to do the best we can with what He’s given us.
There’ll be many times you think you understand something, but then a situation or person comes along who throws that understanding into question. Your instinct will be to try and avoid your understanding being challenged. There’s a comfort in feeling like we understand something, and we HATE having to give up that comfort. So, we’ll fight emotionally and throw logic out the window!
But, it’s okay to not understand something. It’s okay to have to give up that understanding and realize that your understanding might be incomplete, or maybe even wrong.
2. There will always be problems that don’t have any easy answers.
And as much as we hate it, many problems just don’t have easy answers. We so badly want for everything to be simple. We want our lives to be sitcoms where all the problems get fixed in 30 minutes. We want everything to have a perfect solution. But, that’s not reality.
In reality, sometimes the best solution is still terrible. Sometimes the choice is between 3 people being killed and an entire country losing freedom. The world is unjust and broken. Innocent people get punished, guilty people go free. Sometimes the choice is between an evil government having too much power and evil corporations having too much power.
Take intersex diseases for example. I know of a woman who used to be in bible study with a friend of mine who had AIS. She looks, feels, and thinks exactly like a woman. She has female genitalia and no male genitalia. In fact, it wasn’t until she was an adult that she found out that according to her chromosomes she was a man. You see, her dna is male, but the hormone that is used to make her a male instead of a female wouldn’t work because she has a disease that makes her cells resistant to it. So while her dna was trying to make her a male, her cells wouldn’t let that happen.
Instead of ovaries and a womb she had partially formed testicles inside which had to be removed. So, is she a man or a woman? If she marries a man is she a homosexual? Now there are several different intersex diseases. AIS is just one. But even with AIS, there’s a large sliding scale of severity. For those who are just a little resistant they may be completely male inside and out but are just impotent. For those who are the most severely resistant they will be like the girl I just told you about. And they can also be literally anywhere in between. In fact, some are right in the direct center of that sliding scale and have genitalia that is directly halfway between being male and being female. It would be impossible to tell by any test whether they were more woman or more man.
So what determines your gender? That’s a question that might be impossible to answer!
As Christians we will be faced with many, many situations where we come to believe something because we want to believe that there’s a perfect solution when there’s really not. To have to come to accept that our understanding about something is wrong and there isn’t a perfect answer is incredibly scary! So, we refuse to allow ourselves to believe that our understanding is incorrect.
We interpret this natural feeling of repulsion against reality and a strong pull toward our initial understanding because it’s comfortable. We often misinterpret this as “intuition” and want to stick with what our gut seems to be shouting at us. But, in reality, it’s just our natural fear of a serious problem not having a good answer.
The only thing we can do is be aware of this and force ourselves to accept that in many cases, the best solution is still really ugly. And when you are faced with this, realize that there might not be a perfect solution and instead seek out all the possibilities and all the positive and negative consequences to each one. Then, it usually ends up coming down to personal opinion as to which side is worse than the other.
3. There will always be things about life and Christianity that you are wrong about.
And no matter how wise of a Christian you are, you will never know it all. There will always be things about life and Christianity that you’re wrong about.
It’s true. Even the most wise and knowledgeable Christians I’ve ever met will occasionally come to the realization that something they’ve always believed is actually wrong. Not only are they willing to admit this, they actually seek out challenges in order to be able to have these incorrect beliefs exposed.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with realizing that something about the bible or Christianity that you’ve always believed is actually wrong. You may have spent years militantly preaching your point of view, and to admit that you’re wrong means feeling horrible embarrassment and remorse. But, it’s okay. We’re ALL learning and growing. We will all mistakenly stand up for something that isn’t true and ultimately make fools of ourselves. You’ll be in very good company!
If your pride and self-worth come from yourself and what others think of you, then you’ll be devastated and will even go so far as to become delusional in order to not have to admit to yourself or others that you’re wrong. But, if your pride and self-worth come from God and what Jesus has done for you, then you have nothing to worry about. You already put others first and have humbled yourself below God, so a realization that you’ve been wrong about something shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise.
If you find out that maybe something in the bible you’ve always believed to be literal might not be, that’s okay. If scientists prove that evolution is true, that’s okay. There’s no reason to fear opposition. There’s no reason to fear being challenged. Being challenged can only make you stronger in the end. It may cause you to have doubts, but that’s okay. Admit the doubts and ask God to help you properly deal with them.
Just because you’ve convinced yourself that you don’t have any doubts, it doesn’t mean you don’t have them. It just means that you’re lying to yourself.
If you truly believe that the bible is true, then you shouldn’t fear any opposition or challenge. Seeking the truth will always lead back to God, because God is Truth!
If you really deal with your doubts openly and honestly, and realize that it doesn’t make you a bad Christian and that doubts aren’t an attack from the devil, but instead a natural part of growth and being human that all of us have to deal with, then you won’t fear it. When you don’t fear it, then you’ll be able to grow and won’t be forced to avoid everything that might cause you to have your “everything is perfect” bubble popped. And when you don’t feel that subconscious compulsion to avoid evil, then you’ll be able to go out into the mission field and allow God’s light to shine into the darkest parts of the world.
And when you do that, and take leaps of faith, you’ll see God’s power. And if seeing God’s power doesn’t make your doubts fade, then nothing will!