Recently I made the above statement on Facebook and it generated a couple of questions. So I thought I’d expand on that thought a little bit here.
One Bad Apple
We’re all familiar with the adage one bad apple spoils the bunch. If you put a rotten apple in with a bunch of good ones the rottenness will spread to the other apples relatively quickly.
However, if you put a good apple in with a bunch of rotten ones, it won’t make the rotten ones any better.
There’s a parallel application to this in scripture from 1 Corinthians.
Don’t be fooled by those who say such things, for “bad company corrupts good character.”— 1 Corinthians 15:33
I’ve heard it said that people generally tend to be the average of the 5 people they spend the most time with. Regardless, who we choose to closely associate with is has a direct impact on our own character.
Based on that, it would seem that it would seem that either goodness or evil could be, at lest in part, a function of the people we hang out with. And to a point that is true.
However there is a distinction between goodness and holiness. This may seem the long way around, but it will get us there. Stay with me.
Absence of a Positive
Evil is simply the absence of good, in the same way that darkness is the absence of light or coldness is the absence of heat. Think about that for a moment.
The negative isn’t a property by itself. They’re just terms we use to describe a lack of their positive counterpart.
You can’t make something “more dark”. All you can do is remove light. Cold is not an energy source. It is the heat that is the energy. Remove the energy and you get cold.
Evil is the same thing. We give it way too much credit as a powerful force when in reality evil is just an absence of goodness.
Religion is man’s effort to move people, himself and others, from evil to good. While it sounds incredibly noble on the face of it, think about the fall of mankind in Genesis 3 for a moment.
What was the tree that God forbade Adam to eat from?
It was the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. The world’s religions are working to move people from the evil branches of that tree over to the good branches.
The trouble is they’re still all up the wrong tree. What they really need is to be in the Tree of Life instead.
That’s a subject for another whole article in itself. But for now, keep in mind that the people we hang out with help determine which branches on the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil we spend our time on.
Good and Evil have to do with our outward behavior, the things we choose to do. In that way, goodness and evil are both contagious. Although, like the apple analogy, baring some outside influence (for example God) it is much more likely that good people will “rot” towards more evil than it is that evil people will “freshen” towards good.
In contrast, holiness is being set apart by God, having a spiritually pure quality. Holiness is found at that other tree, the Tree of Life.
We don’t “get holy” by hanging around with other people. It comes directly from God. Holiness is about our position in relation to God. Goodness is about our outward behavior.
Will true holiness will certainly affect our outward behavior in a good way? Absolutely.
The difference is all about motivation.