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Christianity rightly claims each person has value and is a special creation of God, but many struggle with why people commit heinous crimes. Did God create people evil?
In our economically advanced nations we take our access to modern conveniences and technology for granted. However, in spite of all these scientific advancements, the last century witnessed the evil of Auschwitz, communist totalitarianism, the rise of terrorism in the name of religion and the use of technology as a tool of despotism.
The irony is that humanity’s creativity and ability to think in abstracts are the same abilities that give us the capability for unimaginable evil. Along with the ability to reason comes the power to choose. We can choose which thoughts we consider and which ones we discard, how we deal with our emotions and what actions we take toward others. Freedom of choice explains why human beings can be both good and evil. But why would anyone choose evil?
We are born with some inherent instincts, such as self-preservation. No one wants to feel pain or hunger, or be emotionally rejected and made to feel worthless by others. We want to feel good and satisfy our five senses.These needs and desires are not evil, but how we choose to fulfill those desires can be good or evil.
It really comes down to how much we're motivated by selfishness. Because of our instinct for self-preservation and the desire to satisfy the senses, we tend to see ourselves as the center of the universe. The more we give in to this perception and focus on our own selfish desires, the less we are able to recognize our faults and be concerned for the welfare of others.
When Satan tempted Eve with the forbidden fruit, she "saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise.” (Genesis 3:6). Basically Eve was motivated by three human drives that have the capacity to produce evil. The fruit was "good for food"—appealing to her need for self-preservation. It "was pleasant to the eyes"—pleasing to the senses. And it was "desirable to make one wise" — to know and acquire understanding.
Satan convinced Eve God was holding back something good. Once Adam and Eve decided to disobey God their human nature became a mixture of good and evil, reflecting the devil's evil nature, which is the opposite of what God intended for us.
The Apostle John writes about three human motivations—"the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life" (1 John 2:16). John saw the evil in human beings as rooted in the motivations of self-preservation, fulfillment of the five senses and the need to feel superior to others. This is just another way of stating Eve's motivations as recorded in Genesis.
We find another revealing passage in Ephesians 2:2, where Paul describes Satan as "the prince of the power of the air," recognizing Satan's ability to "broadcast" attitudes of anger, hatred, greed and lust. Satan appeals to our desire for self-preservation and self-fulfillment, by influencing human beings with all the negative, destructive aspects of his nature.
The central message of Jesus Christ’s Gospel message is that wayward human beings can be forgiven their sins and have their nature changed, as Paul told the Ephesians: "And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others" (Ephesians 2:1-3).
These Christians were experiencing a dramatic change and were no longer "by nature children of wrath." In verse 10 Paul explains that "...we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them."
One of the most incredible concepts revealed in the Bible is that salvation is creation. God's forgiveness opens the door for human beings to have a relationship with Him and begin the growth process to become what God intended us to be. God wants to transform our corrupted nature into divine nature. When we repent and sincerely want to change, God takes a "piece" of Himself, His Spirit—His mind, His pure love—and places that inside our minds to change how we think and feel.
Jesus commanded His followers to be baptized and have hands laid on them (Acts 8:16-17). Paul explained in Romans chapter 6 and 8 baptism represents putting to death the old man and being raised to a new life, through the help of God's Spirit, which the newly baptized person receives after immersion when the elders of the Church lay hands on them.
The New Testament is filled with instructions about how a Spirit-led Christian can become a "new man" (Ephesians 4:22-24; Colossians 3:9-10). This physical life is the preparation ground for eternity.
The Good News magazine (Nov-Dec 2004)