WHY DOES EVIL EXIST?
Archpriest Sergiy Baranov
St. John of Kronstadt Cathedral of Gai
June 11, 2023
Let us discuss the presence of evil in this world. This is our experience. Well, someone can say, someone who thinks frivolously, we can stop him and say, “Well, think about that!” To which he might answer, “There are no sinister forces, there is no devil.” But we stop him again and say, “But where does it come from? Look, it comes from the outside. Do you want this evil”? “No”. And he will say, “This is my habit.” But there was a reason for your habit, this habit appeared somehow, this temptation by evil appeared from somewhere. There was your answer to this evil, but this evil came to you from the outside. This suggests that in our world, in being of our world there is a dark power which tries to spoil everything around. If there had not been a light power as an opposition to the dark one, the latter would destroy this world, our world simply would not exist. This fact proves that there is a light power which opposes sinister forces. This is a continual fight. On no account do I want someone to think that these forces are equal, – on no account do I want that! In an instant, one question appears, well, why, if God is almighty, why would He, as someone may think, let this dark power act, why would He let this power be? Have you not thought about that?
This evil power entered into us and united with every cell of our body. So in order to destroy this evil one should destroy all of us. We are all contaminated by this evil, every cell of ours is infected with it. But God loves us, He feels compassion. That is why God has a wise plan, a long term plan. He lets this evil tempt us so that we would be able to show our inclination to kindness, to make a choice. He can not become our Friend by force, without our choice, He can not become our Father by force. One can become a lord or a leader forcefully; one can come and conquer. But one can not become a friend forcefully. So, that is why God let us show our inclination for Him. We make our choice when resisting a temptation.
Not having any temptation, one may say that, “But I have already shown everything.” I do not believe you. The very first hardship will show that, actually, you have already shown everything, the very first hardship – and you have already changed your mind. Your inclination is not reliable, this is not true. I love You while everything is good. But there appears just a little, small unpleasantness and I do not love You anymore. This is not love. These are commercial relations. Love is unconditional. So, in order to show this unconditional love to God, we have to be tempted. And this silly dark power does not even suspect that it helps us to resist temptation. This power tempts us and lets us win this way. Having repelled temptation, we say that, “God, it is not that I simply tell You, “Jesus, I love You,” – but I prove it every day.”
Now there are many words out there, but it is hard to believe them. There are so many different words. People speak lofty language but do sordid acts. So, word means nothing if not proved by action. But what is worse is that this word can be hypocrisy. That is why any word should be proved by action. In order to prove our sincerity to God, we have to constantly resist temptations, which provoke us – whether we really love Christ or not.
Look, what Gospel we have read today, if someone can remember, “He who has not left father or mother for Me is not worthy of Me.” He does not say, “I do not want to see you.” He says that your love for Me is not complete. So, you can prefer an imperfect father or imperfect mother to the Perfection of God. He does not say I do not want to see you, I am offended, I am angry. He says, “Not worthy of Me” – the quality of your state is not worthy. “Who has not left a son or daughter is not worthy of Me.”
I, as a priest, saw so many lives for the last 30 years. One goes to church sincerely, ardently. Then a temptation came – a disease of a child, your own disease, your career is destroyed, friends left you – and your relations with God got on the wrong side. So, it means that your relations with God were not sincere, it means that you always needed something from Him. “God I want nothing from you but only You Yourself! This is my main wish.”
Today we celebrate All Saints’ Day. This was their way. God says, leave your father and mother, leave your son and daughter, leave your property, as apostles did. They were poor people. Their property was – a boat and a fishing net – they needed it to make their living. God came, “Follow Me”. They left their boat and net, and they went to some place unknown. The same happened with all saints: leave this, leave this, leave this. But the last…last thing God says in the Gospel, “Do you want to be my disciple? Take your cross.”
Now it is very often the case when people are coming to church to achieve completely different goals. Where to read to make my family feel good? Where to read to manage hiccups at work? Where to read to make this or that part of my body healthy? Only a few people enter a temple and approach not to that, or that, or that icon from which they can ask for this, for that, and for this. They go straight to a rood. To the Cross on which is Jesus with blood flowing down. Sometimes I may say to people who need this, and that, and this from Jesus, “Go to the Cross. Look at His hands, legs. Ask Him.” And it may happen that your tongue can not even move. One has some power to only say, “God” and that is it but then there is some pause.
All saints, there was not even one saint, we remember today, apostles, hierarchs, righteous saints, we remember martyrs, we remember different archieratikons, venerables, but there was not even one saint who entered the Kingdom of Heaven without a personal cross. This cross is like a key which can open this door. It is impossible to enter the Kingdom of Heaven without a cross. On an icon we can see that the righteous thief enters the Kingdom of Heaven with the cross on his shoulders. It does not matter what archieratikon, I say, you had when you strived – as a righteous lay person or a monk, as a hierarch or a priest, as a venerable, as a martyr, especially as martyr. No one entered the Kingdom of Heaven without a cross.
This is the answer to the question why does evil exist? Evil is a marker which reveals the quality of our Christianity, it is like an acid test. We may see through this evil – if we agree with it or resist it. We may even be succumbed by this evil but we cry about it and this is our fight. We do not agree with it but evil fights with us and this process is our inclination to Jesus. Evil can win one hundred times but we go to penance through this shame and announce our confusion and this process is our inclination to Jesus.
Why does evil exist? Now we do understand it, right? To fight it, to beat it. If we do not conquer this evil we will run away from it all the time but it will keep catching us occasionally. We need to win it as the saints did. Everything is for Christ’s sake. But the main thing, I would like to emphasise it, not only for Christ’s sake but with Christ. I do not believe that someone was able to win evil without Christ. These are arrogant people with self-importance. One day this self-importance thing will betray them, it will collapse. Why did the Lord let this happen? For us to become firmly convinced of our imperfection. We should understand it properly so that we cry and scream, “ Lord! I lost this battle one thousand times and finally I got that I can not be without You. I can not. Do not leave me and I will not leave You. Only like this can I win.”
Glory to God, both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen