Evening reflection: Good and evil

‘If the wicked, however, renounces all the sins he has committed, respects my laws and is law-abiding and upright, he will most certainly live; he will not die. None of the crimes he committed will be remembered against him from then on; he will most certainly live because of his upright actions. Would I take pleasure in the death of the wicked — declares the Lord Yahweh — and not prefer to see him renounce his wickedness and live?
‘But if the upright abandons uprightness and does wrong by copying all the loathsome practices of the wicked, is he to live? All his upright actions will be forgotten from then on; for the infidelity of which he is guilty and the sin which he has committed, he will most certainly die.
‘Now, you say, “What the Lord does is unjust.” Now listen, House of Israel: is what I do unjust? Is it not what you do that is unjust? When the upright abandons uprightness and does wrong and dies, he dies because of the wrong which he himself has done. Similarly, when the wicked abandons wickedness to become law-abiding and upright, he saves his own life. Having chosen to renounce all his previous crimes, he will most certainly live: he will not die.’

In the text from Ezekiel (18:21-28), God today speaks to us about doing good and evil. He recognises two different scenarios: a wicked man denouncing all evil he has done, and a good man turning towards the wicked. This text tells us that God looks more to changing behaviour than to the mere acts of a person. While something like, say, murder is undoubtedly evil, God does not say that the murderer is forever lost: no, a change in his behaviour towards the good, in whatever form, will be redemptive. What form this change takes is a question with many answers, which is not covered by this text.

In the same way, no one is eternally good. We all run the risk of doing evil things, consciously or subconsciously. God seems to take a change from good to evil much more seriously than the opposite. A good person may be expected to be aware of the reasons for his good deeds, especially when he does them out of his faith (and in the Old Testament, this may be expected to be a matter of fact). Now that we know God and have expressed our faith at our confirmation and every day anew in prayer and Mass, we have no excuse not to follow His lead. If we decide to go off the path, so to speak, God will judge us accordingly. We break a promise we made. And taking someone up on that is not unjust after all.

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