Some verses of scripture have a way of jumping off the page because they seem to be asking for the reader either to believe the impossible, or live impossibly. One such verse for me is found in Romans 16:19:
"I want you to be wise about what is good and innocent about what is evil."
In America, 2014, this request is extremely tough, because evil is so appealing, so smart, so pervasive, and "Oh, so genius!" There is a subtle belief in almost any human endeavor these days that evil is the ingredient in giving something more of a "mature & adult" taste. Like adding a little hot sauce or jalapeno pepper to bring out more of the flavor of your chicken wings; evil when applied makes life and the living of it a little more interesting and cooooooool. The campy Christian production is campy precisely because there is not enough evil added for the cultured critic to enjoy; everyone needs a seedy back-story or sensual romantic fling to sink his teeth into, the more nakedness the better. It is evil that gives the cinema, journalism and even the upper realms of the business elite that certain "edge" or "dangerous" quality for something to truly become successful.
I remember in my early years of walking with Jesus, I didn't know it at the time, but I was still highly influenced by evil's genius. It took a theology class on the topic of "depravity of man" to show me just how polluted by it I was. In my class there was a very nice man who had a hard time believing that mankind, by nature, was irreparably damaged outside the regenerative help of Christ. "There had to be some good in man?" he opined. Well after class he and I went out for lunch and I began to spin hideous tales of evil I had personally witnessed and even was a part of in my past life. As I told them I could feel this inward taste of delight, satisfaction and superiority arising in my gut because I knew that I possessed knowledge of a certain kind that he did not. I had secret insight into evil that I thought made me a little more, "cultured, experienced, and dangerous" than my poor naive seminary friend. After our discussion I walked home feeling good about all the wonderful sordid stories I bestowed upon my fine young padawan.
That night as I kneeled and prayed, God clearly revealed to me my rotten heart...he showed me how sick, and not cool, my thoughts were. "Chris, are you taking delight in doing things that KILLED MY SON?" "Chris, don't ever brag about those things that caused the hammer to nail the precious hands of my Son to a cross." I was broken. Evil deceived me. It deceives us all.
"Dude, what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas!" Ha, ha, cool.
"Hey, I wouldn't recommend anyone go watch half the movies up for Oscars; but I can handle them because I am one of the few that understands real art, literary theme, method acting, high brow culture. I am mature."
"Why do people have such a hang-up with swear words, they are just words? A way to express these pent up existential feelings of angst...it's more about how it is emoted than what the words actually mean. Raw emotion expressed, it is just sounds, you are applying meaning. So lighten up and enjoy my edginess."
Evil is genius at getting us to ridicule the beauty and nobility God wants us to see and live our lives by.
To be innocent of evil is "to not be in possession of it; not to want it, desire it, or be proud of it." The best way you can tell if you are innocent of evil is if you sorrow rather than sneer when evil is watched or talked about. When you cringe instead of cynically smiling at the horrible. When you want to run and rid yourself of it rather than investigate and learn all you can about it.
Evil may be a genius, but it's brilliance is to play you for the fool!