For the past month I’ve been going around asking people a simple question: Do you think there is more good or evil in the world? I’ve asked my fellow pastors, some business people, family, neighbors and even the baristas at my favorite coffee shop. So now I’m asking you, my readers. What do you think?
I was quite surprised at the answers I received. To a person, those who answered quickly were adamant that there was much more evil than good in this world. Not surprisingly, most in my world of biblical studies and theology answered according to their understanding of the doctrine of pervasive depravity. Think John Calvin and Martin Luther and before them, Augustine. The doctrine of pervasive depravity springs from the understanding that the presence of original sin means that everyone comes into this world broken and in need of divine grace to set things right.
But, being a bit of a contrarian myself, I was quick to point out that, theologically, what we know as “common grace” means that God the Creator continues to send the rain on the just and the unjust alike … although we all pray he’d send more our way! Add to that the idea that God, through the avenues of law and conscience, is actually restraining a significant portion of the evil that humanity is capable of. In theological circles this means things aren’t nearly as bad as they could be. But, despite my incisive theological argumentation, few if any changed their view. Evil continued to get their vote.
But, there were many who responded to my question with pause. These folks were much more contemplative, and mulled the issue over in their minds. Of these, no one came out with a belief that good outnumbered evil. However, almost all of the contemplative delegation responded with this statement: It all depends on your perspective.
And it is with that understanding of the issue that I am in full agreement. For example, if I allowed myself to view this world through the lens of our cultural drift as demonstrated in newsworthy current events, I almost certainly would end joining the cynics who delight in the faults, failures and felonies of those in the public spotlight. If the disasters that bleed and lead in the national media shape my opinion, there’s no doubt my answer would be “evil!”
But if I choose to look first at the elements of my own life, at the “goings on” in my own sphere of influence, my perspective is quite different. As I sit here pushing the keys on my computer in a rush to meet my publishing deadline, I’m smiling. And why not? Forty-five years ago I married the best person I’ve ever met, and together we’ve built a home decorated with love, raised three wonderful, successful adult children, and even better, three beautiful grandchildren. I can honestly say that the best part of my day is coming home!
I also have many great friends, an amazing group of dedicated and gifted co-workers, and a church family that actually lives out what we believe Christianity ought to be.
Despite the chaos of this broken world, I have a meaningful, purposeful and satisfying life filled with relationships that matter, opportunities that are exciting, and a professional position that allows me entrance in lives of people at both the best and worst times of their lives. And best of all, I get to come alongside them to love and listen, and bring the wisdom of God himself to bear on their lives as they navigate the opportunities and challenges of life.
So, yes, it does depend on your perspective, and what’s more, you can actually choose where you will focus your vision. My suggestion is to cast your eyes at those nearest to your heart, who make life good for you, and who can benefit from your experience, your wisdom and most of all your love. And maybe you’ll find that there’s more good around than evil, and that is certainly what we all can be most thankful for. Happy Thanksgiving!
Local resident David Hegg is senior pastor of Grace Baptist Church. “Ethically Speaking” appears Sundays.