It is easier to acknowledge something as evil from a distance. But when it’s up close and personal things can be confusing. Imagine being a child in a home where you were consistently unprotected. Perhaps it’s “only” neglect or it could be some form of abuse.
You are faced with a choice. (A) Acknowledge the fact that those given to care for you are too consumed with their own interest to care for you. (B) Believe that your parent(s) really are good people and make up an excuse for the neglect or abuse.
“A” is too frightful for most children to accept. “B” is a lie, but it provides a sense of safety when the mirage is all you can depend on. “B” fits with the imaginative world of child. “A” seems to contradict all the messages that life works best when you obey your parents.
“B” calls evil good.
“A” calls evil evil.
I counsel many people who are very hesitant to make statement “A.” The reason is not because there is uncertainty about the actions of their parents (or other significant figure in their life). The reason is because it feels un-Christian to make such a declaration.
Why is it important to make this declaration? I will state two reasons (others could be listed). These examples bridge more situations than the neglected/abused child scenario.
First, until we call evil by its true name we will have a distorted category for “good.” Good is a meaningless word unless real people, events, and actions are contained in the category for “evil.”
For the person who ignores or mislabels being abused/neglected by a parent growing up, what does it mean to have a “good” marriage? What does it mean to rely on someone as “trustworthy” if no one can be called a “liar”? What basis is there for “hope” if no one can be declared “manipulative.”
The question is quickly (and most often sincerely) raised, “But wouldn’t this cause me to be judgmental?” That takes us to the second point.
Second, the first step in forgiveness is to declare that an evil has occurred. Forgiveness is not turning a blind eye. Forgiveness is not “being nice” in the presence of wrong. Before I can forgive I must declare that what was done was wrong.
Unless I declare a wrong action evil, I can only explain it away. Forgiveness doesn’t touch accidents. Accidents receive, “That’s okay.” Forgiveness doesn’t cleanse oversights. Oversights get, “I’m sure you had a lot on your mind. I probably would have done the same thing.”
Forgiveness is for moral evils (sin). When I say, “I forgive you,” I am saying, “That is the kind of action that required Jesus’ death and I am giving you what I received from Him.”
It is only calling evil by its right name that allows us to find any refuge in the word “good” and allows us to deal with evil in the way that God prescribed. As with any deception, calling evil by the wrong name carries a domino of effects that pushes us away from the Gospel and genuine peace.
If this post was beneficial for you, then considering reading other blogs from my “Favorite Posts on Theology and Counseling” post which address other facets of this subject.