A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away . . .”
These are the opening words of Star Wars, the first in a popular line of fictional space odysseys. Obi-Wan Kenobi and Luke Skywalker are among the last survivors of a race of good warriors called the Jedi. An evil empire has destroyed their planet and killed the rest of the Jedi, and it’s seeking to destroy Kenobi and Skywalker. The pair finds themselves trapped with their friends inside the evil empire’s monster spaceship. In a hand-to-hand fight with Darth Vader, the sinister leader of the evil empire, Kenobi sacrifices his life, enabling Skywalker and the other survivors of the Jedi to escape.
The forces of the evil empire continue to pursue the remaining Jedi, but from a base on a distant planet, Skywalker attacks the evil empire’s spaceship at its one vulnerable point, destroying it and ending the war.
One of the most obvious aspects of Star Wars is the similarity between the film’s plot and the conflict between good and evil that’s been going on in our universe for thousands of years. It’s a popular theme in Hollywood, because it strikes a chord. You and I see this conflict in our neighborhoods and even in our own lives. And, as in Star Wars, evil often seems to have the upper hand. Human passions seem impossible to control—a fact that is evident both in the crime that washes over our cities and in the everyday events in the lives of millions of addicted, depressed, and angry people. Yet we all hope and believe that good will triumph.
But where did evil, the antithesis of good, all begin? Did God plan for our world to be like this, or, as in Star Wars, is there a sinister “evil empire” behind it all?
The Bible has an explanation. Its story also begins a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away—a place called heaven. These are the opening words in Revelation’s chilling account: “There was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him” (Revelation 12:7–9).
Many people wonder why God created the devil. He didn’t. The Bible says this of Lucifer before his rebellion: “ ‘ “You were blameless in your ways / from the day you were created / till wickedness was found in you” ’ ” (Ezekiel 28:15). God created Lucifer a perfect, blameless being. Lucifer originated sin within his own mind and heart. God didn’t put it there. He found it there.
This distinction leads us to one of the most important principles that God uses as He directs the resolution of this universal conflict between good and evil: He coerces no one. When Lucifer chose to make himself evil, God didn’t stop him, even though we can assume that He could have.
God also created humans with a free will. He took the risk of creating them to be capable of choosing either good or evil. God’s decision to allow Satan access to our earth has had tremendous consequences for humans. Instead of the universal conflict between good and evil occurring in a far-off place called heaven, it is a battle you and I have to fight and a choice we have to make.
And the reason is simple: Adam and Eve succumbed to Satan’s temptation to join him in his rebellion against God. Ever since, the world has been plagued with evil. A short sentence in the Bible’s account explains why: “The man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden” (Genesis 3:8). Adam and Eve were actually afraid of God! Adam even admitted it. When God asked why they had hidden, hereplied, “ ‘I was afraid’ ” (Genesis 3:10).
Doomed to be sinners
Fear, shame, and anger are basic emotions that all humans experience. While they have a place in our lives (e.g., fear keeps us from jumping off of high cliffs), they easily lead us into behaviors that are abusive to others and ourselves. The Bible calls these wrong behaviors sin.
The moment Adam and Eve chose to sin, and the moment shame and fear entered their hearts as a result of that choice, the entire human race was doomed to the same fate. This is the source of the evil that plagues the human race.
It is crucial to understand that we cannot put these foundational motives of evil out of our own minds and hearts. Each of us is born with a tendency to do wrong—to sin, if you please. Some of us are born with a tendency to become angry, others with a tendency to abuse the sexual part of our nature, and still others with the tendency to overeat. And the evil we are born with runs deeper than these tendencies to do the wrong things.
We are born selfish. We each act out this selfishness in different ways, but selfishness lies at the core of what’s wrong with all of us.
God didn’t make Adam and Eve selfish. He made them full of unselfishness, love, and joy. However, when they sinned, they took on the same selfishness that lies at the core of Satan’s nature. They then became the same kind of self-centered beings that Satan became after he rebelled against God. Not only that, when Adam and Eve sinned, they doomed their children and their children’s children to also be like Satan. That unfortunate inheritance has passed on from generation to generation till it has come to you and me.
This brings us to the very heart of the conflict between good and evil. This conflict is not just between the people who do good things and those who do bad things. It’s a conflict between those who are good and those who are bad on the inside. The side you’re on depends on the condition of your heart.
The question is, How can we be like God on the inside when we are born like Satan on the inside? If we are born in harmony with Satan, how can we ever be at enmity with him the way God intends us to be? (See Genesis 3:15.)
Jesus answered that question in one brief sentence: “ ‘No one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again’ ”(John 3:3). This new birth that Christians talk about so much is the spiritual change from being like Satan at heart to being like God at heart.
Now, here’s a principle that’s so crucial that it needs emphasis: those who want a place in God’s eternal kingdom someday must experience this change of heart now.
It’s a simple matter to experience this change of heart. Just ask God to place His Spirit within you. You may not notice a dramatic change, but if you cultivate this relationship with God through Bible reading and prayer, you’ll begin to notice a difference in the way you think and feel. And those who truly experience it say that it’s wonderful!