I drove by a bank with several police vehicles in the parking lot, and two officers hanging crime scene investigation tape around the front entrance. My daughters (7 & 4 yrs old) noticed the situation as well, which led to the question, “What happened daddy?”
“Someone might have tried to rob the bank,” I replied.
“What does that mean?,” they inquired.
The best answer I could offer was, “That means someone tried to steal the money. A person might have taken a gun into the bank and forced the bankers to give them money.”
Then, both girls wondered out loud, “Why would someone do that?”
My answer was, “Sometimes people make bad choices.”
The conversation went silent for about 30 seconds, and was broken with a tiny voice from the back seat, “Wait a minute, bad guys are for real.”
Without saying the words, I was thinking: “Yes, honey, evil does exist in our world. I wish you didn’t have to learn this reality.”
A day later, and I’m still thinking about our conversation. Someday, my little girls will also realize their own potential for evil because to be human is to be a sinner.
In the beginning, God created everything good (Genesis 1 & 2). With particular care, God made Adam and Eve (humanity) in God’s own image. This perfect and innocent existence is interrupted by an act of defiance, which you know as their decision to eat the forbidden fruit (Genesis 3). Most refer to it as the “Fall.”
The story of the “Fall” in Genesis 3 tells the message of the universal scope of sin. We learn that every human must acknowledge their sin. The Biblical writer, Paul, declares it in 1 Corinthians 15:22, “all die in Adam.” Then in Roman 3:23, it is written that “all have sinned, and therefore have fallen short of the glory of God.”
So, all humans, including my precious daughters carry the burden of sin. The potential for evil lies within all of us, not just “the bad guys.”
But, what is the root?
I want to focus on two ways of understanding the root of evil. Both have practical consequences.
The root of evil is pride. This is the most common understanding. Adam and Eve resigned their will to ambition in the moment of a promise to be like God. Pride caused them to reach for more than they already had.
The root of evil is forgetting the image of God in us. Genesis describes Adam and Eve as already like God. They were made in God’s own image and likeness. Sin is not a matter of ambition. It is forgetting or not believing what was true, that they were “like God.”
Here’s why this matters. If pride is the root of evil, then people in situations of poverty, oppression, or injustice should not aspire to anything more. They must accept what they already have and who they already are. “If the root of evil is forgetting the image of God in us, then these same people must demand respect and justice precisely because, like every other human being, “they are like God.” **(Gonzalez & Perez, An Introduction to Christian Theology, see footnote at bottom of post)
As my daughters mature in their faith and learn the potential of evil in their own life, I pray they never forget the image of God is already in them. It’s who you are created to be, and God works every second to restore the image to it’s original state.
I also pray we, as Christians, will be the reminder to all of humanity who they were are created to be like.
What can we do to be a reminder?
**Justo L. Gonzalez and Zaida Maldonado Perez, An Introduction to Christian Theology. Abingdon Press, Nashville. 2002