Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil but what is good. Anyone who does what is good is from God. Anyone who does what is evil has not seen God.

3 John 1:11 (NIV)

Sometimes I read a verse in the Bible and I have a paradigm shift. This verse from 3 John is such a verse. What stands out to me in this verse is that it doesn’t say that those who do what is evil are evil. They are people who haven’t seen God. I think that’s a very important distinction to make. Evil is something that people do but it’s not what they are. I know that some people might say that those who aren’t the Children of God are the Children of the Devil but is that true and if so, does it mean that they are evil?

I can’t help but think about myself. I wasn’t always saved and I still sin sometimes. The Bible tells us that no one is without sin. It also tells us that no one who is born of God keeps on sinning. However, the “keeps on” part doesn’t mean that they never sin again. It means that they have turned away from a life of habitual and willful sin to a life pursuing God. As new creations in Christ, we can turn away from sin and follow Christ instead. Those who aren’t born again don’t have that same choice. Yes, they have the choice to follow Christ but if they don’t exercise that choice and say “Yes” then they’ve made a choice to say “No” and aren’t following Christ.

Therefore, people can’t be evil. They only choose to do evil things. Before I was saved I did evil things and those who were saved could have looked at me and thought I was evil. What if they treated me differently because of that? So often we read of how to treat our brothers and sisters in Christ and some might preach that this treatment is exclusive to us. Not the people of this world. However, God tells us to love our neighbors as ourselves. If we love our neighbors as ourselves and treat them accordingly then aren’t we treating them how Christ would treat them?

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Matthew 22:36-40 (NIV)

I know that Jesus was talking about the Law and we are no longer under the Law. However, we are under the law of Christ so these two ideals pertain to all Christians. Not for our salvation but to live lives that are holy and pleasing to God.

I’m still wondering about evil people. However, it occurs to me that I’ve only covered two types of people. Those who have either said “Yes” or “No” to Christ. What about people who have said “Yes” and then turned from the faith?

The Bible tells us that the fear of God is wisdom and shunning evil is understanding (Job 28:28). Fear, as we know here, is not the state of being afraid. It’s more like a reverent awestruck viewpoint. When I think of this verse from Job my takeaway is that those who love God in all of His majesties and realize how big and awesome He is and what He can do are wise in knowing this. However, those who turn away from evil apply that wisdom by turning away from evil and not doing it. In other words, you know that God doesn’t like evil so you don’t do it.

Therefore, if anyone might be evil it would be those who have become apostates of the Christian faith. This, of course, causes me to look back upon this verse in John and see if there’s something that’s been missed. Let’s take a look at the Amplified version.

Beloved, do not imitate what is evil, but [imitate] what is good. The one who practices good [exhibiting godly character, moral courage, and personal integrity] is of God; the one who practices [or permits or tolerates] evil has not seen God [he has no personal experience with Him and does not know Him at all]. 3 John 1:11 (AMP)

I had to re-examine this verse because I believe the word of God that tells me “anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun (2 Corinthians 5:17 NLT)! The Amplified translation clarifies that the person who we think has turned away from the faith never knew God at all. Thus, I stand behind the notion that people cannot be evil, they can only do evil things.

Whatever the case, we ought to love everyone with the love of Christ remembering that it’s His kindness that leads to repentance (Romans 2:4).

Do you know God? God knows you and He loves you. He sees you as significant because you are. No one is insignificant to Him. He’s with you today, right now, and He wants you to know Him. Jesus died for your sins and mine so that we could be free of guilt, be freed from death, and live eternally with Him. Eternal salvation is just a prayer away.

Pray this prayer with me to accept the gift of salvation today:

Dear Lord Jesus, I know that I am a sinner, and I ask for Your forgiveness. I believe You died for my sins and rose from the dead. I turn from my sins and invite You to come into my heart and life. I want to trust and follow You as my Lord and Savior. Amen.

If you prayed that prayer then congratulations! You are on the first step of a brand new life. Allow me to be the first to welcome you to my family, the family of God. There are abundant resources available online for new Christians. You can visit here for more information on what to do next. You can also leave me a comment and I’ll do my best to help you on the next step of this incredible journey.