Moral Dilemmas: How Do You Discern Good or Evil?

Good or Evil?I noticed this picture on my friend, Gwenneth’s, facebook page. What word you read may say something about your gut response to life (positive or negative), but I think a deeper question is: What does this figure represent? Having just completed Diet’s book, Things We Couldn’t Say, I’ve been really pondering all the moral dilemmas faced by people during World War II. How do you interpret something as simple as the word above? It truly is just black and white, but is it good or evil? Something that looks “GOOD” on the outside but is “evil” on the inside sounds like hypocrisy to me, and therefore evil. But what was the intention of the designer? Much, much harder are all the moral dilemmas surrounding trying to resist evil, such as the citizens of Europe faced during World War II, and frankly—we each face every day. Do you wait until your country is overrun by another government before trying to protect yourselves? Holland’s army rode bicycles! It took one week for Hittler’s mechanized war machine to bulldoze Holland into surrender. Then what? How are we supposed to respond to evil? “Overcome evil with good,” but what does that mean in the context of war? Diet said that Hittler was on the radio promising neutrality to the Dutch while his tanks were rolling in. How do you respond to liars who are out to destroy you? Is it right to lie in order to protect an innocent person? Is it right to steal from illegal oppressors who have taken over your country? What about the Germans? Everything was being done “legally” in Germany, but it was still highly immoral. To the Germans, it looked GOOD on the outside, at least at first. My initial response to the graphic above was to read it as “GOOD,” but after closer examination and thought, I changed my opinion on what I thought it was trying to express. GOOD with an evil heart? That can’t truly be good. I know my gut response to murderous invaders would be to kill them before they killed me or others that I loved or felt were innocent. Would that be GOOD or not? Is it ALWAYS right to keep the Ten Commandments in EVERY situation? We are also told to “answer a fool according to his folly.” Just what does that mean? Christ never lied. King David certainly did, or at least he acted deceptively and pretended to be insane to avoid being killed. Christ never killed. By nature, I think I’m a Peter. I’d start swinging my sword, ready to die in the fight…but not really interested in being a lamb to the slaughter. And yet, we are called to be as harmless as doves (although we’re also warned to be wise as serpents). You know what? I’m glad God gives us his Word as a lamp to our feet and also promises to give wisdom to those who ask moment by moment, because otherwise, there are times it would be nigh unto impossible to know what actions would be truly GOOD.

“If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all men liberally, and upbraids not, and it shall be given him” (James 1:5).

2 thoughts on “Moral Dilemmas: How Do You Discern Good or Evil?

  1. It took me quite awhile to see that word ‘evil’ instead of ‘Good’. I finally got it though. Life can be pretty scary. I can’t imagine what went on in Germany but it appears that enough time has passed that memories are dim and very few people who lived though those devastations are still here. Memory is the great paradox. On one hand, we don’t want to remember; yet on the other we need to remember.

    1. It took me a long time to figure it out too; I think you and I just think positive!! It is a real challenge to remember our own past and the past problems of nations so that we don’t repeat our mistakes without wallowing in guilt…how to forgive others and ourselves and move forward with humility and dependence on God instead of thinking we can wing it on our own (which always leads to failure). I’m not good at it myself, but I think that’s what God wants.

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