by Dale Reeves
Pure Evil. The phrase itself is a paradox—two words that shouldn’t go together. When we think about something that is pure, we think of these kinds of descriptions: “free from anything that taints; free from defects; perfect; faultless; free from sin; blameless; virgin or chaste; of unmixed stock; ceremonially undefiled.” In a number of places in the Bible, our Lord challenges us to live pure lives, to be wholly devoted to him. We are to keep ourselves “from being polluted by the world” (James 1:27, NIV). We are to “not share in the sins of others” but to “keep ourselves pure” (1 Timothy 5:22, NIV). We are to strive to be “pure in heart” (Matthew 5:8, NIV). We are to think about things that are pure (Philippians 4:8). We are to “become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation” (Philippians 2:15, NIV).
What transpired in New Richmond, Ohio, the Thursday before Father’s Day can only be explained by this phrase that the apostle Paul uses: “a warped and crooked generation.” The word “pure” can also mean something that is “absolute, utter, or sheer”—and it is within that context that we might call this horrendous event that took place “pure evil.” It was the exact opposite expression of what God desires for all of us—to praise him with our lives out of “pure joy.” What happened a week ago is a vivid picture of pure evil.
Evil Is Alive and Well
The first definition of evil according to Webster’s dictionary is “morally reprehensible, sinful, wicked . . . arising from actual or imputed bad character or conduct.”
How does a father, whose job is to protect and provide for his children, premeditate for several months what he is planning to do, then carry out a firing-squad type of execution for his three innocent sons, ages three, four, and seven? And, had his teenage daughter not been able to run away, she would have been murdered on the front lawn of their house along with her brothers. David Gast, who heads the Clermont County Prosecutor’s Office criminal division lamented, “The trauma this man has inflicted is unspeakable. The evil horror of what we know is impossible to process.” The thirty-two-year-old father, Chad Doerman, hunted down one of his three sons who tried to flee, then brought him back to the house and killed him.
As a dad of two daughters and a “Pop Pop” to our four precious grandchildren who have stolen my heart, what happened is unfathomable to me. Whatever motive this man had for planning and carrying out the execution of his precious children simply does not make sense to us who have a love for God, our families, each other, and even our “enemies.” We know there are mental health issues involved in this horrific tragedy. We don’t know what else drove this man to commit this heinous crime. The only way we can make any sense of it is by understanding that the Word of God tells us that there are people in this world “whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron” (1 Timothy 4:2, NIV).
The apostle Paul speaks of the sly and subtle ways of temptation our enemy the devil leads people down paths of evil—thought by thought, little by little, choice by choice, action by action: “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel” (2 Corinthians 4:4, NIV).
Do Not Be Overcome
This past month our senior minister, Brad Wilson, has been preaching about the wickedness of the ancient Assyrians in their capital city of Nineveh, the city to which the prophet Jonah had been called by God to go and preach repentance. In speaking of Nineveh, the prophet Nahum calls her the “city of blood” and he includes a graphic description of their warfare atrocities: “She was taken captive and went into exile. Her infants were dashed to pieces at every street corner” (Nahum 3:10, NIV). The wicked Assyrians sold people into captivity, cut off parts of their enemies’ bodies, gouged out eyes, beheaded their foes, and killed their infants. What a horrible scene of carnage!
Other places in the Old Testament also speak of the grisly deaths of children. The wicked Ammonites sacrificed their children on the altar of their detestable god Molech (see Leviticus 18:21). Moses records these words for us that led to God sending a great flood upon the earth: “The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time” (Genesis 6:5, NIV, emphasis mine). Unspeakable evil existed in the days of Noah and all throughout the Old Testament.
When Jesus was born, wicked King Herod sought to destroy the baby Messiah. “When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under” (Matthew 2:16, NIV). Unspeakable evil existed in the days when the New Testament was written. And, shall we recount the horrors that the Roman emperors inflicted on people, and the persecution that followers of Jesus endured during the days of the Roman Empire? During the reign of Nero, some Christians were crucified, some were thrown to wild animals, and others were burned alive as human torches at his garden parties.
Evil has been vividly demonstrated through many world wars, from Hitler’s execution of six million Jews during the Holocaust, to the genocides that have taken place in countries such as Rwanda and Sudan, killing hundreds of thousands of innocent people. The prophet Isaiah warns us: “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness” (Isaiah 5:20, NIV). My friends, we are living in a time when things that are detestably evil to God are considered good in our country and our world. You can be sure that God will not be mocked.
Brad has been asking this question in our current sermon series: “Where is your Nineveh?” Where would you have a difficult time going to share the good news about Christ to a person or a people who seem focused only on causing pain and suffering on others, hell-bent on inflicting evil atrocities on others? Terrorists in the Middle East? Drunk drivers? Drug cartels? Child molesters? Sex traffickers? Protestors who loot, burn buildings, and create mayhem? Corrupt politicians? Drag queens who are influencing school-age children? Pornographers? Parents or relatives who commit incest? Serial killers? Murderers of their own flesh and blood? Would you wish they would receive the death penalty, life imprisonment, “get their just due someday” or burn in Hell? Or would you pray for their repentance to God and subsequent forgiveness from him?
One day when Jesus returns to the Earth for a second time, he will vanquish all evil as “the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur” . . . where he “will be tormented day and night for ever and ever” (Revelation 20:10, NIV). But until that day comes, unspeakable evil will exist in the world. Innocent lives will be taken, as they cross over from death to life and find themselves in the precious arms of Jesus. May we as believers spend our time striving to help people cope with life’s challenges, and seek to live out this command from God’s Word: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21, NIV).