Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Overcoming Evil with Good

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.  Romans 12:21

The meaning of this verse is very simple and straightforward, and its very practical.  The practicality is found in Christ's teaching.  If we follow the teaching of Christ, we shall overcome evil with good.  Let me show some examples of this:

But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.  For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.  -Jesus in Matthew 5:44-45 (ESV)

Jesus talks about persecution.  Lets consider a mild form of persecution and how someone might overcome evil with good.  Lets say there are people who insult you and exclude you for whatever reason.  If you retaliate, and try to slander them back, it will likely cause them to persecute you more.  If you are a decent person, and you simply do nothing, it will dull their words considerably.  If you follow the teaching of Christ, doing something good for them like praying, it will make it that much harder for them to do the evil thing.  Lets say the persecution is worse, like physical abuse.  If your response to being abused is to show love to them, it will make it very hard for them to abuse you.  If you respond to evil with evil, in the mind of the person who is abusing you, they will feel some kind of justification.  That's not how they will feel if you respond with good.  If you treat someone good when they are treating you badly, they will feel rather rotten about treating you badly.  And its quite likely that they will stop doing the evil.  It is much harder to do evil to good and loving people.  It is harder to steal from someone who is very willing to give you the shirt off their back.

And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.  And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.  -Jesus in Matthew 5:40-41 (ESV)

Going the extra mile is how someone overcomes evil with good.  There are people who will do bad things.  There are people who will steal and cheat and abuse.  But the only way to overcome that evil is with good.  To the one that steals, we give to him.  If I give food and drink to the guy that stole my ipod, or whatever it may be, I am making it very hard for him to steal again.  I am, in some sense, restoring his love for humanity.  He might steal out of some hatred of people.  He might think all people are evil and therefore deserve evil done to them.  But will it be so easy for him to do evil to someone who does good to him?  His conscience would eat him up.  So if I do good to him, whether he has or might be about to do evil to me, it will greatly lessen the likelihood that he does the evil.

But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil.  But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.  -Jesus in Matthew 5:39 (ESV)

Now there might be some cynical skeptic out there that thinks it will never work.  He thinks that I can do all the good I want to for the thief or the persecutor, and it won't make any difference.  He assumes that an evil man will always be an evil man, and therefore my efforts are fruitless.  But even if he is right, I should still do these things.  I should still give to the one who takes, turn the cheek and pray for the persecutor.  Why?  Because nothing in this world is mine anyway.  Why does a person refuse to turn the other cheek or give his cloak away?  Because he protecting himself and his possessions.  But to be a follower of Christ the first condition is to give up everything, to pick up your cross daily.  Already I have, as a Christian, decided that my possessions mean nothing, that my life belongs to Christ.  In other words, I have nothing to protect.  Even if my following Christ's commands does not yield good fruit in other people, I should still do it, because Christ commanded it.  Yet I do believe that following Christ's commands will yield good fruit in others.

I am getting at a fundamental principle.  It is much easier for a man to be evil when he is surrounded by evil.  If people do evil to him, he will see no problem in doing evil to them.  If people set an example of evil, he will likely follow it.  He sees evil, he hears evil, he receives evil, and he is likely to do evil.  Where does the evil end and the good begin?  With Christ.  Reverse the scenario.  Is it easy for an evil man to do evil to someone who does him good?  It is much harder.  It is much harder for a man to do evil when he is surrounded by good.   He will not want to hurt someone, because the people he comes into contact with are always helping him.  Even if he were inclined to evil, he still would not want to do evil, because he loves the people who are always doing him good.  So the good has overcome the evil.  This is what we are commanded to do.  Whether someone does us evil or not, we must always do people good.  By responding to evil with good we overcome evil with good.


About Me

Unimpressive in person. But always praying that these letters I write will be weighty and forceful. I serve the Almighty as a servant of Christ. I strive to conquer hearts and minds with the word of God. I am nothing, but the Holy Spirit living inside me is omnipotent. By Him I can run and not grow weary, or walk and not be faint. All glory and honor be to God and to Jesus the Christ.