Can Evil, Plus Evil, Plus Evil Equal Good?
Every year humanity churns out more than 380 million tons of plastic waste. Most of this ends up in landfills. About 8 million tons each year lands in our oceans. And about 14% of plastic waste is recycled – into more plastic, most of which ultimately becomes waste. Yes, it’s a distressing reality.
But science has been laboring hard and fast to find solutions to break down plastics into biodegradable components. Most of these solutions involve more than 50 different ‘plastivores’ – living organisms (e.g. waxmoth larvae, beetle larvae, bacteria) which consume plastic.
These many plastivores produce something called terephthalic acid. Terephthalic acid is a waste product of organisms which eat polyethylene terephthalate (PET), the most widely used plastic.
And just recently, researchers at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland have discovered a way of converting terephthalic acid into vanillin. Vanillin is the chemical extracted from vanilla beans which is used to give the scent and taste of vanilla to thousands of products. Vanillin naturally comes from an orchid and is very labor-intensive to produce. Consequently, the demand for vanillin far outpaces our ability to supply it.
But now scientists have discovered a way of converting a waste product of plastivores into vanillin. How do they do it? They genetically engineered a deadly bacterium – E. Coli. In repeated experiments they’ve demonstrated how E. Coli bacteria can convert terephthalic acid into vanillin. The positive economic and environmental impacts of this process are encouraging, to say the least.
The practice of combining several evils together (plastic pollution, plastic-eating pests, and a deadly bacterium) to make something as pleasant and desirable as vanillin has a parallel in the spiritual realm. For God is continually doing the same with the painful mistakes, failures, and regrettable sins of our lives. God does the unthinkable with them. He incorporates them into His divine plan to save us, sanctify us, and ultimately glorify us.
God used the failures of Jacob’s son, Judah, to soften him up, change his heart, and make him willing to lay down his life for his brother, Benjamin (Genesis 37:26-28; 38:1-26; 44:18-34). And through Judah God would raise kings and ultimately the Messiah, Jesus Christ. God used Peter’s own failure of denying the Lord as the means of making him a more compassionate and effective healer of men (Luke 22:31-32).
Paul the apostle used to cite his persecution of the church as proof of His zeal for God (e.g. Acts 22:17-21; Philippians 3:6). But the day would come when he grieved deeply over this sin. Indeed, God used this dark blemish to produce something sweet in Paul’s spirituality – humility. Note how Paul, over time, steadily diminished in his own sight. In 1 Corinthians 15:9 (written in AD 57), he called himself “the least of the apostles.” In Ephesians 3:8 (written in AD 61), he called himself “the least of God’s people.” And later, in 1 Timothy 1:15 (written in AD 64), Paul referred to himself as “the worst of sinners.” Why? It was all because he had persecuted the church (1 Timothy 1:12-14).
In all these cases God used the evils committed by struggling sinners – who sought the mercy of God – to make them more humble, more compassionate, and more like Jesus. And take a look, sometime, at the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew 1:1-16. It’s filled with flawed people and their failures – Judah the whoremonger, Rahab the prostitute, and David the adulterer. Take a glance also at the so-called “Heroes of Faith” in Hebrews 11:32-34. There’s a lot of damaged goods in the lot of them. But when they put their faith in God’s mercy and love, they were forgiven, transformed, and made into the Master’s image.
I know, I know, “nothing good can come from sin!” I’ve said it a thousand times. Yet, look at the biblical evidence. Clearly God, by His grace and love, brought about good from human failure. It happens every time we place our trust in Him. Believe me. If people can add plastic waste, bugs, and E. Coli together and bring about something so precious and pleasant as vanillin, God can do miracles with our evil – if we turn to Him in faith and a broken and contrite heart (Psalm 51:16-17).
PRAYER: Dear Father in heaven, I confess my sins and failures to You. I cannot undo the evil I have done. I can only come to You in faith and remorse for my sins. I ask You, dear Father to forgive me, cleanse me, and transform me into the image of Your dear Son, Jesus Christ. I have no goodness of my own to commend me to You. I trust only in Jesus, Your atoning sacrifice for my sins. Please, dear God, take the broken pieces of my life and make me into something beautiful for Your glory and for the blessing of others. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
(Information from: https://www.chemistryworld.com/news/genetically-engineered-microbes-convert-waste-plastic-into-vanillin/4013767.article; https://sciencemint.com/researchers-turn-plastic-bottles-into-vanilla-flavoring-using-bacteria/#:~:text=With%20the%20E.,bottle%20into%20vanillin%20in%20demonstrations; https://www.livescience.com/vanilla-flavor-plastic-waste.html)