"Woe unto those who call evil good and good evil,
who put darkness for light and light for darkness,
who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter" (Isa. 5:20).
When I was 18 years old in 1973, I got hired for a non-speaking part on a TV Show called, The Streets of San Francisco. You see, I was intent on becoming an actor, so I studied at the American Conservatory Theater's Summer Training Program. At the end of my time, I got an agent in San Francisco and she got me this part.
I only tell you this story, because I met an African American kid with whom I shared the scene. We were talking about the main actors on the series, Karl Malden and Michael Douglas. He said to me about Michael Douglas, "He's bad!"
I thought this was rather rude. I said back to him, "I actually think he's pretty good."
The kid said back to me, "That's what I mean. 'He's bad' means 'He's good.'"
This was the first time I had heard this rhetorical phenomenon; using "bad" to mean "good." In fact, later I would hear someone say something was "fat" to mean something was good. Or another one, saying something was "dope" to mean it was good. Or even, "That's sick," to mean that it's good.
There is a trend in our culture to call good evil and evil good. And I don't think it's just a random rhetorical phenomenon. There is an underlying spiritual dynamic that feeds it.
The crumbling of our moral foundations as a society has been following age-old patterns.
Gangsta Rap has led the trend in making lawlessness "cool." Your street creds are often based on how many swear words you can amass in your lyrics and how many lawless acts you can glorify.
I recently had someone get married in Las Vegas and they were shocked at the state of "undress" of the women wherever they went. Female pop singers have led the way in becoming more and more risqué. As a result, girls think they must emulate this kind of seductive, lascivious fashion.
When I grew up, I joined the Boy Scouts. This is the Boy Scout Oath:
"On my honor, I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law; to help other people at all times; to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight."
And the Scout Law:
"A Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent."
Do you react to these Scout slogans with something like, "Wow. That's really corny?" Or square or old fashioned or out-dated? Or do you think, like me, "What a sad state of affairs that we should think that this is no longer admirable?"
Unfortunately, Scouting has come under attack from people in the culture who want to cancel anyone or any institution that does not agree with their agenda. Scouts did not support the entire LGBTQ agenda, therefore they must be destroyed. Beyond that is the underlying spiritual agenda to undermine the desire for "goodness" in our culture.
The Old Testament tells us that one of the trees in the garden was "the tree of the knowledge of good and evil." The Hebrew word for good is "tov" and the word for evil is "ra'". Mankind's disobedience lay in the fact that they ate from the forbidden fruit of this tree. Tov represents the goodness that mankind would experience by obedience to His command not to eat the fruit. In fact, not to eat the fruit would have been an expression of trust in God because mankind would be demonstrating that God's word was good for them. The keeping of that command meant keeping goodness in its place.
But the eating of the fruit also meant demonstrating distrust in God, and therefore experiencing the fall, and thus the brokenness apart from God. Ra' is the state of walking in separation from God and experiencing the full implications of disobedience and thus, evil.
We have an enemy who is intent on deceiving and undermining God's moral authority. Jesus tells us, "When [the devil] lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies" (John 8:44b). In Revelation 20, we are told that Satan will be loosed at the end to go into the world to deceive.
It is time for the Church to rise up to speak the truth to a culture that has been flipped upside down. Goodness is our highest moral goal. Evil is to be resisted and utterly rejected. Search your own heart. Ask yourself, "Have I embraced a culture that calls evil good and good evil? What must I do to embrace God's greatest good for my life? How can I become a force for God's good agenda in this world?"
It is time for the Church to repent and to turn entirely back to God. He is Goodness incarnate. We are His children, embracing what is Good and utterly rejecting what is Evil.