Over the years I have asked a lot of Christians, “Do you believe people are basically good or basically bad — 0r perhaps you believe people are a mixture of good and bad?” An amazing number of Bible-believing, Jesus-loving people will say, “I think most people want to do good.” People have the idea that they should “think the best of people,” “give them the benefit of the doubt.” If you think that, the Bible says you are wrong!
The apostle Paul tells us, “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh.” (Romans 7:18) .We could all make that same statement about ourselves and about everyone else. We all need saving! “There is none righteous, not even one.” (Romans 3:10) It was not that God looked down from heaven and saw in you and me something worth saving. No, God saw us in our utterly depraved state, separated from Him and helpless to improve ourselves. He had created us and we had rebelled against Him, defaming His character and rejecting His goodness, but out of His great love and mercy He sent His Son to die in our place, to take the punishment we deserved, and to restore us to fellowship with Himself.
Here is the problem: if we don’t believe in the depravity of man, we cannot appreciate and understand the majestic sufficiency of the atoning blood of Jesus. We have to see how utterly bad the human race is in order to see the powerful, saving goodness of God. Only as I understand and accept what I was before Christ can I comprehend the magnitude of what He has done for me in Jesus Christ.
Christians should never be surprised (or intimidated) by the evil that is in the world, not because we are cynical but because of the reality of the atonement in our own lives. Jesus Himself, “was not entrusting Himself to them, for He knew all men, and because He did not need anyone to testify concerning man, for He Himself knew what was in man.” (John 2:24-25) Jesus was not cynical, but He was not surprised by iniquity and He certainly was not fearful of it! He believed in the depravity of man, but He also believed that His Father was greater.
Yes, we live in a world full of depraved men and women. Self-seeking, self-centered, self-indulgent, egotistical, greedy, lying, cheating, stealing, ruthless, vengeful, God-hating . . . we could go on and on with the adjectives describing men without Jesus. And such were some of us before Jesus. (I Corinthians 6:11) But because we have experienced in our own lives the reality of the redemption of Jesus, we do not lose hope. Before Christ I was capable of any evil I see around me. Therefore I know there is no one and nothing too hard for God!
Christians are not allowed to give place to despair. Our God is that big. So while we resist evil with whatever tools God provides, let us also affirm the greatness and sovereignty of our God. He is in control. He is always good. And He wins.