This post was written by Sam Gyorfi. 

Why is humanity so intrigued with understanding good and evil? People have long written stories about good and evil, right and wrong. Today, movies are either focused on the topic or the ambiguity of the topic. Shows like Mad Men or Game of Thrones focus on the lack of absolute good and evil and instead operate in a liminal perception of life. People are intrigued by man’s ability to possess great good and the capacity of terrible evil simultaneously.

The inherent contradiction incites imagination and wonder among audiences in the entertainment world but remains taboo in everyday life and conversation. In social interaction we want to promote our best and hide our worst. We want the transparency of our leaders and corporations while simultaneously obsessing over privacy in our personal lives.

The modern man or woman seems to operate within a desire for moral objectivity while holding others to a standard of rigidity that appeases their own ends and purposes. Good and evil is a tale as old as time but so complex a thousand lifetimes cannot plumb its depths.

Enter you, us.

We daily see and wrestle with the subtle nature of good and evil. While it is hard to define, we know good and evil and see it daily. Most when pressed will attempt to define it anecdotally, but their arguments break down in the face of similar arguments made by any fellow human with a background they have yet to encounter. So then, this new story and perspective goes into their repertoire of understanding and adds to their flimsy definitions blown about by the tides of popularity as they cling for life. And this is the problem—humanity has a weak definition of that which matters most as people look for the meaning of life. We live in straw houses without foundations, and tornado season seems to be on the horizon.

The Genesis story of Adam and Eve first sinning is a very mature topic that has been pondered by some of the greatest thinkers to ever walk the earth. Yet we readily teach it to children from a young age, and they can understand its gravitas quite easily, why? Because before a child can speak in clear sentences to describe what they feel, they feel the pull of evil. No one teaches a child to assault a fellow toddler for taking their toy, no child even knows why they must have it so badly—they just know they want it. We are intrigued by the story of good and evil because it is a fight we have all fought. A fight we have all won and lost. Yet this fight is murky and the enemy we combat is elusive. We know good and evil exist, yet clear definitions often elude us. Will we ‘know it when we see it’ as justice Stewart famously said? Humanity knows there is uncertainty in the moral world, but clarity seems difficult to pinpoint on our ‘calendars of thought’ (day to day thought processes and corresponding actions).

As many Christians would profess, humanity has been made in the image of God and this image was tarnished at the first sin of Adam and Eve. We desired to take the one thing God reserved for Himself in creation, the knowledge of good and evil. Since that act we have obsessed over it—to our downfall. We use the story of Adam and Eve to teach children about temptation and making good choices. But how can humanity try so hard to master something that was not intended for us to master in the first place?

Our desire to control good and evil has created opposing definitions, from person to person, that cannot coexist. Societal definitions of good and evil are not only heretical to scripture, but logically nonsensical. Anyone who tries to operate within ‘their truth’ is telling God his truth has been insufficient, and they would like to take over leadership. Over and over again mankind has felt the pull of evil and bowed to it time and again, thinking they would be the one to master the gray.

Enter the spirit of the living God.

Anyone familiar with a twelve-step program or the literature associated with addiction therapy has probably come across the serenity prayer:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.

When people are at rock bottom, the common theme that arises is control. We cannot control others. So to the toddler who violently takes back the Tonka truck in the sandbox—we explain the lesson of self-control, and the art of using our words (for the record, as a larger human being, I believe using your words is only for little people—but Christ’s grace abounds). We all must learn this lesson in life. The problem, and where many people hit the brakes and repeat the same mistakes over and over, is in the belief that they are in control. Self-control is an essential truth for the sandbox or playground but falls short in the pursuit of sanctification. Many fall into the same sin and moral ambiguity time and again because they have believed in the illusion of control. All the while the spirit of the living God provides His truth, not in understanding or willpower, but in the grace of God. The spirit of the living God dwells in us, and the word of God (which is living and active) leads and controls our lives. Our own attempts to define good and evil have failed alongside our desire to control and understand but in my experience, my best is found at the cross and in the truth of the gospel.