Why do people do such terrible things?

Humans have done terrible things to humans, but all justified in the minds of those doing them, of course – in self-defence, combatting evil, fighting for freedom, or “because it’s God’s will.” And then in movies and other propaganda we’re constantly fed the idea that justice justifies revenge, “payback time” and settling disputes by violence, and even brutal violence by good people.

So atrocities continue, and God allows them. Why? “In order that sin might be recognized as sin,” Romans 7:13. We can’t see sin for what it is, that’s our problem, so we keep on sinning.

So how do we recognize sin for what it is? By what it produces. And look what it’s produced: never-ending atrocities and death, and insane, twisted minds that hate and kill and don’t think twice about it.

But “sin is deceitful,” Hebrews 3:13. It’s very clever. It makes us think we’re right even when we’re blatantly wrong, like the husband who says he loves his wife but he’s having sex with someone else. Who does he think he’s kidding? But there’s “another law at work inside us, waging war against our minds” that’s very good at deceiving us, Romans 7:23. So what’s the source of this law of sin? According to Paul it’s “The ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient,” Ephesians 2:2.

But note what he’s saying here. Yes, there’s a real devil at work, but where he works is in the disobedient. Disobedience, then, is what gets things started, as we see in the Garden of Eden. God gave a clear command to Adam and Eve but along comes a serpent with a pathetic excuse for disobeying it, and they’re hooked. It didn’t take much for them to disobey God.

And nor does it today, either. Any excuse to disobey God will do, but unfortunately that opens the door to the devil and he can convince us of anything after that, including the idea that God supports our atrocities, witness the prayers of people on both sides of a conflict believing God will bless their bullets.

So what makes us disobey? It’s our weakness for putting self before God. That’s why we need the mind of Christ, because he never put himself before God. Result? Sin never deceived him, he was never tempted into disobedience, and the devil couldn’t mess up his mind. And we can have that too. How? By the Spirit who is now at work in those who are obedient, Acts 5:32. And therein lies the solution to all atrocities. It’s a mind in tune with the Spirit of God, not the spirit of the devil.


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