I think that we often hear or read the words in the Bible that say "the thief comes to steal and destroy", but we gloss over them. Many of us may think that these words represent some mystical ethereal being called the Devil, but that they are simply not real. We think that spiritual warfare doesn't really happen, and most of the evil in the world can be attributed to human nature, or sin, or something to that effect. But is that all there is to the story? What if there were a real undercurrent of evil which existed in our world? Something stronger and more focused than just "human nature"?
I recently viewed part of a documentary called 'Worse Than War', outlining some of the reasons behind genocide and the mass killing of entire segments of the human population. I'm not talking hundreds of people here, I'm talking millions. Nazi Germany, or even the Bosnian War in more recent history for example. Wikipedia defines genocide like this: the deliberate and systematic destruction, in whole or in part, of an ethnic, racial, religious, or national group. A fine definition. But now imagine that you lived in Darfur and you witnessed your neighbors, friends, and family being dragged into the street and murdered in front of you - only to realize that you were probably next. Lets bring it home: you are pulled out of your car at the stoplight, waiting to get to the mall to do some Christmas shopping. You get the idea. A definition is good as far as it goes, but then reality comes rushing in. Compare the black and white films we used to watch in high school about the German gas chambers, and contrast that with talking to a holocaust survivor.
The film-maker in this particular documentary went and interviewed one of the men from Rwanda who participated in roaming groups which went into communities and wiped out families. What he said made me sick. To paraphrase, he said the following: "we would go in with machetes and chop up whoever got in our way first. If they were fast and made us chase them for too long - we would purposely cause them more pain prior to death. If they submitted willingly to us, we would kill them quickly, or occasionally even let them live. Sometimes it was tough, because you would encounter young babies who would just start to learn to smile. They would smile at me, and then I would murder them."
When asked what caused him and his fellow "soldiers" to act like this, he said (also paraphrasing): "I don't really know. I don't have an answer for this. We knew we were doing it, we were fully conscious... but it was like a kind of fog enveloped us. A current of great cruelty overtook us, almost like it was controlling us." The documentary offered some different explanations for this type of killing; blind obedience, bias, racism, etc. These are all true, in so far as they go. But the answer that this man from Rwanda gave was much more haunting.
The Bible tells us that evil is real. That it isn't just some aberrant behavior carried out by small portions of the world's population. There is something more going on, and none of us are immune. Americans are lucky, my generation hasn't had to deal with conflict on our own soil really, apart from 9-11. It won't last forever. That great evils have occurred in the past, or that they will occur in the future - or even that they are currently happening - doesn't concern me as much as the reason they occur. If you answer that it is just human nature to seek out conflict, you may be right, to a degree. But what had to happen to the human being - who can be loving and generous one moment, awful and vengeful the next - so that we have fallen so far from the mark? I believe it was a fall indeed. Genesis talks about the fall of man due to sin, but not just that. That the devil is a real being. That demons are also real. And that there are spiritually dark undercurrents that do exist in our world.
The good news is this: if there is such a dark reality in our world, then there must be the opposite which exists also. For we cannot call true evil bad, unless we know the greater Good. This, in a round-about way, I believe points directly to the existence of a loving God. Do not let the fact that planet Earth can be a violent and horrible place wash away the fact that it won't be like that forever. That there is a God, that He loves us, and that He has promised not to abandon us. Let's focus on Jesus, and in so doing, live out that part of our human nature that is divine. In doing this we don't stay in our homes and hide from evil, but rather we go out into the world, and bring with us this Light.
That true evil exists, few people would doubt. At least God has provided us with the true Good.