One of the amazing things about Christianity is that our relationship with God is completely dependent upon Him. We come to that relationship through His grace. We stay in that relationship by His grace. There is nothing we can do to make God love us more. There is nothing we must do to appease His wrath. In many religious traditions, people are called upon to make great sacrifices just to appease their god’s wrath. People have no hope of gaining their god’s love, they’re just hoping he/she/it doesn’t get angry with them. In ancient times, this desire even led devotees to certain religions to engage in sacrificing their own child, or another human being. None of that would please our God because of His love for all people. Instead of us seeking to make peace with God, He made peace with us through the death of His Son on the cross and His resurrection.
One of the problems with that understanding, and one of the earliest heresies of the church, was that how you lived was unimportant. You could do whatever you wanted and God would forgive you. In fact, God gave grace when He forgave sin, so the more you sinned, the more grace you got, according to this heretical belief. Paul asked the question in Romans “shall we sin that grace will abound?” and answered with a phrase loosely translated as “Are you out of your freaking mind?” In short, he reminded people that those who follow Christ should not sin deliberately. John addressed that same type of situation by noting: “Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil but what is good. Anyone who does what is good is from God. Anyone who does what is evil has not seen God.” (3 John 1:11)
Evil is worse than bad. Sometimes we do bad things that are intentional, but don’t really hurt anyone. Still, they are sins that hurt us. While they don’t affect God’s love for us, they make it harder for us to love God and cause other people to may wonder if our faith is real. Sometimes people who are new Christians haven’t seen God take care of all of their bad habits and they end up doing bad things. John here talks about evil. Those are those things that people do that are wrong, knowing that they’re wrong because they intend bad things happening to other people. We see and hear stories of evil that people do every day. I don’t know what John would describe as evil, I’m not even sure that I could give a blanket definition, but to paraphrase a Supreme Court Justice in the past, I know it when I see it. John states without equivocation that God’s people do NOT engage in evil. They will still do things that are wrong – they’ll still sin, in other words – but they will not deliberately seek the harm of others.
This isn’t a matter of salvation. This is a matter of sanctification. Once the Holy Spirit enters the life of the believer, He’ll keep you from doing evil things. John would contend that if you can still do evil things, then you aren’t walking with God. This isn’t a question of “stopping doing evil things to be saved.” There are many people who don’t have a relationship with God through Jesus who don’t do evil things. This is an indicator of your relationship with God. If you have a relationship with God, you can’t do evil things. Let me give an example: I am married to a wonderful woman. Because of the love we share, I can’t even think about cheating on her or doing anything to destroy that relationship. I love her too much. Is it possible for me to do something wrong? Yes, but if so, it would indicate that things were not right between my wife and me. In the same way, if I have a relationship with God, I can’t do things that are evil, I can’t do anything to hurt others. If I were to do evil things, it would indicate that things weren’t right between God and me. Evil is never of God and if you are right with God, you can’t do it.
Lord, even as you protect me from evil things happening to me, keep me from doing evil things.