‘If good people fail to act aganist evil are they guilty of commiting it?’
‘The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.’ (Edmund Burke et al)
In this post we turn our attention to the idea that people who fail to do good in the world are wittingly (and unwittingly) guilty of evil. While it may offend some on first reading, the failure of the person to do good when it’s within their ability to act, is often referred to as a sin of ommision – that is when a person ‘omits’ to do something that will help another and a consequence arises. A moment in time when the person with power – be that physical, mental, resources etc – has the opportunity to do good BUT chooses to not go through with it.
There are many reasons why this happens. Sometimes the person falters because of fear. Other times it might be greed or because there wasn’t enough time to act before the window of opportunity closed on them? Or maybe it never crossed the person’s mind to act in that situation. Now, unlike moral evil which is seen through actions such as slander, malice, cruelty, murder etc, sins of omission are best classified as ‘inaction.’ All of which means that the person who is suffering and experiencing some form of pain and desirous for someone to alleviate their suffering is often unaware of the potential answer that was not afforded them when the person crossed over to walk on the other side of the street. An example, aptly detailed in the Bible story of the Good Samaritan who’s action to the wounded traveller surpasses the righteous and reverred men who went before him on the trail that day.
So what is the answer?
Well, one thing we can all do is to resolve to take action immediately against unfairness and injustice in the world where it is within our power to act. Another, is to resolve to be active in God’s world being mindful that we are His solution and how our failure to deal with our own sins of ommision will always perpetuate the injustices we see around us.