This popular phrase has some truth to it, at least as far as the Christian is concerned. But as with so many issues, there is a biblical balance which needs to be maintained, with two extremes needing to be avoided. That is, the Christian is called to simultaneously resist evil while not fixating on evil.
We need to challenge evil where we find it, but we do not need to master all the fine details of it either. For example, we should fight the porn plague, but we must guard against being too aware of all the sleazy details. Getting the right balance here is not always easy, but we must strive for it nonetheless.
In my line of work I must often work on getting this right. I am always alerting people to various forms of evil in the world (and even in the church) which must be exposed and resisted. The question becomes, How far does one go here?
As a recent example of this, I had warned about the American “lingerie football” sleaze coming to Australia, even on prime time television. We certainly don’t need this soft-core porn disguised as sport being beamed into our living rooms.
So elsewhere I posted the most un-offensive graphic of this that I could find. I did so because I believe we need to be aware of what is going on, yet we don’t want to push and promote sleaze at the same time. Very quickly I had my fair share of critics – interestingly even quite conflicting ones.
One gal wrote in and suggested that all this was no big deal, and wondered why I was being such a wowser about this. Perhaps for her sake I needed a stronger image to convey the reality of what was going on. But then I got a guy write in complaining about how this pic was just too much, and I was stumbling other guys with such an image!
So who do we believe here? I told the gal that porn is always a problem, and that the soft-core stuff is a gateway for the harder core stuff. I told the guy that a whole lot more men will stumble and sin if we just keep our heads in the sand and simply shoot the messenger.
And then I had another oft-heard reply: ‘Well, if you don’t like it, just turn off the TV’. But as I responded to this person, that is equally unhelpful. There are still going to be plenty of folks seeing this, including plenty of children, and we have an obligation to stand up for what is right here, and seek to have free-to-air TV not pouring toxic smut into our living rooms.
Even if we do not see the sleaze ourselves, our neighbours will. And what if a neighbour, fed with so much of this sort of sleaze, acts out on our kids what he had been feeding on? Of course I am not saying that watching smut football will turn the viewer into a sex attacker, but we do know that basically all sex attackers have fed big time on all sorts of porn.
So we need some wisdom here on how we deal with evil, and how we motivate others to get involved in resisting such evil. Scripture of course offers us guidelines here. A number of passages could be appealed to, but let me mention just two.
In Ephesians 5:11-12 we find these words: “Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret.” Or as the KJV says of v. 12: “it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret”.
But on the other hand we have a passage like this: “in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes.” (2 Corinthians 2:11). Being aware of the schemes of the enemy is important as we engage in not only spiritual warfare, but in the culture wars and so on as well.
Hiding our heads in the sand as to what is going on around us is not taking our Christian responsibilities seriously to be salt and light. We are to be having a leavening effect on the world around us, and that means taking on evil wherever we find it.
In that sense we need to have some knowledge of it. Just hoping evil will go away, or pretending that it is not there, is not the Christian attitude. To fight evil we must know at least something about it. Plenty of examples from church history come to mind here.
When Wilberforce fought the evils of the slave trade, he did not just quote Bible verses in the English Parliament, or just say it was a no-no. He really did his homework here. He went onto slave ships, interviewed slaves, and did heaps of first-hand research on all this which was presented to his Parliamentary colleagues.
He did everything he could to enlighten others, and snap them out of their comfort zones about this. For example he would come in wearing the heavy chains of a slave around his neck. Too many folks – including far too many Christians – had no clue as to the real evils and barbarism of slavery. So Wilberforce made sure they knew – often in very graphic fashion.
And William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army, did all he could to expose his sleeping nation to the evils of the day, including prostitution, child prostitution, and many other evils. As he wrote in 1885, “Now something must be done, and somebody must do it. Thank God, The Salvation Army never sees an evil without asking the question, ‘Can anything be done to remove it?’”
His son Bramwell worked with a major newspaper editor to expose the sordid corruption of the world of prostitution, and there was even one very brave lass, a young Salvationist, Jenny Turner, who courageously offered to work her way into a brothel so that she could report first-hand her findings, letting the whole world know. Now that is radical!
In a similar way Dr James Dobson once bravely joined in the US Attorney-General’s Commission on Pornography in the 1980s. Appointed as a commissioner by Ronald Reagan, he had the unenviable task of watching hour after hour of the most vile and wretched pornography imaginable.
But someone had to do it, to alert the nation as to what porn was really all about. I do not for a moment advise that just any believer do this, unless they have a specific God-given calling to do so, with heaps of prayer cover as well – both of which Dobson obviously had. But his work was very important indeed, and needed to be done.
So in some ways and in some cases we need to be aware of the evils of the day so that it can be properly fought and resisted. While the work of Dobson is an exception here, we don’t need to go into all the gory details of many of the things we are seeking to expose and stop.
But some knowledge is essential. Obviously in something like human trafficking the testimonies of those once caught in it will be invaluable. Thus as I say, we have two extremes to avoid here: keeping our heads in the sand, or becoming far too conversant with particular evils.
We must try to get the balance right, even as difficult to achieve as this may be. So please pray for me and others who are on the front lines of exposing evil and seeking to wake up a sleeping church and a comatose world. We certainly need wisdom here, as well as spiritual protection.