Evil is real.
This undeniable reality routinely penetrates our headlines, our politics and our communities.
But what, exactly, is evil? The term, defined in various forms, typically points to something “morally reprehensible” and is traditionally used to describe the horrors, inequalities and injustices arising from the misuse of free will.
When we see a mass murderer such as Jeffrey Dahmer or observe headlines documenting the severe and deadly persecution of Christians around the globe, we understand the sinisterness that manifests under the banner of evil.
Of course, more flippant users of the term will sometimes glibly and haphazardly throw the word out as a descriptor for political enemies and those with whom they disagree.
But for people of faith, “evil” has a deeper connotation — a spiritual reality that cracks through every facet of the human experience. In Ephesians 6, the Apostle Paul documents a spellbinding and wholly ignored dynamic unfolding beneath our temporal surface.
“Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes,” Paul proclaims in Ephesians 6:11, continuing in verse 12: “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”
Further, he tells people to “put on the armor of God” and be prepared to contend with the pitfalls of a spiritual world in which good and evil routinely clash, with the fallout pouring over.
It’s a jarring description, particularly for a culture steeped in an “us vs. them” paradigm. From political battles to cultural conundrums, many of us are convinced the real war must be fought between people, yet Paul’s proclamation tells us the enemy is something else entirely.
We see glimmers of intrigue over this overarching battle between virtue and wickedness in Hollywood’s ceaseless propensity for churning out movies about exorcism, possession and other horror-related themes.
And in this fall season, Halloween no doubt brings about an obsessive interest in goblins, witchcraft and evil. While these sentiments are presented with fanfare, we must confront an uncomfortable reality: If evil is real and Paul’s remonstrance holds water, perhaps our frivolous handling of these themes places us in peril.
The flippancy with which we approach evil is troubling and serves to diminish and ignore the truth of what Paul tells us in Ephesians. Teamed with our obsessive battling amongst ourselves, the cultural dynamics are hapless. I’ve spent the past few years exploring evil through a journalistic lens, publishing the book “Playing with Fire: A Modern Investigation into Demons, Exorcism, and Ghosts,” and hosting a podcast by the same name.
What has been most remarkable to me is our failure to fully comprehend the spiritual nature of so much of what’s happening around us. Beyond that, stories of exorcism and possession — tales we so often use with the mere goal of terrifying or entertaining ourselves — actually point us back to God and goodness, if we let them.
These incredible life change and transformation stories might seem strange and bombastic, especially to hyper-secular minds. But they show the true conversion of the human heart and mind that can unfold when one clings to truth and abandons lies.
Take, for instance, Ben Atkins, an ex-Satanist who is now a preacher planting churches in the U.S. and United Kingdom. Mr. Atkins went from worshipping the devil and contemplating suicide to helping people find spiritual freedom.
“I’ve never set out to be a Christian. I’ve just wanted life and truth,” he recently told me. “And that’s what led me into the arms of Jesus.”
Then there’s Jenn Nizza, an ex-psychic who spent years in the occult before hitting a breaking point — and finding freedom.
“I didn’t cry out to a deceased person, a spirit guide, an angel, anybody who I thought I was communicating with all those years,” she told me. “I cried out to Jesus Christ and he really did show up.”
I also recently spent time chatting with Sarah Anne Sumpolec, a woman once enraptured by incantations, Tarot cards and casting spells — until an encounter with Jesus transformed her life. She told me, “I should be dead. I would have been dead. I was truly transferred from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light.”
Some will undoubtedly dismiss these encounters and claims, and I understand the inclination to eyebrow raise. But as our culture relishes this month in evil, gore and morbidity, perhaps we’d all do well to think beyond the latest “scare” to ponder what evil truly is, how it manifests, and the responsibility we all have to combat it with the armor of truth.
The real story is what happens when evil is defeated, not when it’s unfolding before us. In the end, evil, when properly contended with, is no match for light.
Billy Hallowell is a digital TV host and interviewer for Faithwire and CBN News and the co-host of CBN’s “Quick Start Podcast.” He is the author of four books, including “Playing with Fire: A Modern Investigation into Demons, Exorcism, and Ghosts,” and “The Armageddon Code: One Journalist’s Quest for End-Times Answers.” He was formerly the director of content and communications at Pure Flix and the former faith and culture editor at TheBlaze.
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