Most of us can easily describe evil acts that are a direct rebellion against God’s written laws. God’s recorded laws, the Ten Commandments, and other laws elsewhere in the Old Testament in most cases give clear moral directives. As Christians, we understand that doing evil, or sin, is choosing not to obey God’s moral code. On the other hand, we are often unable to see how acts that may not be seen as evil in and of themselves, are by definition evil because of their effects on the victim.
In his book, People of the Lie, author M. Scott Peck recounts various experiences of “garden variety” evil or the everyday evil (or sin) that is active in each of us. In one incident, he was meeting with parents who were concerned about the behavior of their son. Their older son had recently committed suicide by using one of his father’s hunting rifles. For the first few months after the suicide, the younger son had been grief-stricken but otherwise coped fairly well. Then, shortly after his birthday, his behavior became erratic and rebellious.
When Peck met with the son, he discovered that for the son’s birthday the parents had given him a hunting rifle. It wasn’t just any rifle; it was the same rifle his brother had used to kill himself. The son interpreted this to mean that his parents wanted him to end his life too. Upon questioning the parents, they informed Peck that they had given him the rifle as a gift because they were short of cash. They had no understanding of how this was interpreted by their younger son. Some would say this was merely bad judgment on the parent’s part. The truth is that it was an act of cold, albeit ignorant, evil. But then, many evil acts are not perceived as evil by the perpetrator.