“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:21)
In recent articles, I have proposed from a biblical standpoint that both unconditional agape love and humility are essentials of Christian life. As we continue to live on this side of eternity in a broken world, beset along with our loved ones by so much evil, I also propose this: only good can overcome evil.
Many of you may recall a greeting and response often used a few years ago at Christian gatherings: “God is good – All the time – All the time – God is good.” This reminded us of an important scriptural truth. God is completely good. (Psalm 31:19, 34:8, 86:5, 119:68; Mark 10:18) There is no evil in Him. And what applies to the Father equally applies to His Son Jesus and to the Holy Spirit who lives within us. (John 10:30; Galatians 4:6)
God made and called creation good, including mankind, male and female. (Genesis 1:31) But then, as we all know, the evil one tempted mankind into sin, which is evil, and we have been dealing with rampant evil in this world ever since. (Genesis 3; 1 John 5:19)
God loves good and hates evil, and He calls upon His people to do likewise. (Psalm 97:10; Proverbs 6:16-19; Amos 5:14-15; Romans 12:9) Jesus came to destroy the works of the evil one, and as His disciples, we are to continue His mission with Him. (1 John 3:8; John 14:12-14, 20:21) But there is a problem.
The world has taught us its ways of overcoming evil and enemies. Might makes right. The end justifies the means. Whatever it takes. “We” can defeat “them.” And as children, one of my favorites, “He hit me first.”
The Lord, however, requires us to do things His way, which is the only way that works. So, both Paul and Peter teach us to never repay evil with evil or insult with insult. (Romans 12:17; 1 Peter 3:9) You cannot overcome evil with evil because you would simply be exchanging one type of evil for another.
Instead, we are to abstain from every form of evil, hold fast to good, and repay evil with blessings. (1 Thessalonians 5:22; Romans 12:9; 1 Peter 3:9) We are, among other things, to both hear and put into practice the Sermon on the Mount. (Matthew 5:1-7:29)
When insulted, turn the other cheek. (5:39) Love not just your friends but your enemies, and pray for them. (5:43-48) Show mercy and forgiveness so you may receive mercy and forgiveness. (5:7, 6:12-15) Do not belittle or treat others with distain. (5:22) Sow peace, not discord. (5:9) And do not lie or manipulate the truth. (5:33-37; Psalm 12:2-6) Live in accordance with the “Golden Rule”, treating others the way you wish to be treated. (7:12) It is the meek, not the proud and self-centered, who inherit the earth. (5:5)
What happens, we all ask, when there is no clear choice between good and evil, and we perceive our only option is to pick “the lesser of two evils”? Nowhere in scripture are we given the right to choose evil, even when it is the lesser of two evils. Instead, we must prayerfully choose that which provides and leads to the greatest amount of good. And within that choice, we must continue to personally uphold all the standards of good commanded by the Lord, never approving of or rejoicing in wrongdoing. (1 Corinthians 13:4-6)
We must always be wary of the temptation to call evil good and good evil, and with our itching ears to seek teaching that suits our own passions. (Isaiah 5:20; 2 Timothy 4:3) This applies not just to sanctity of life and sexual morality, but to how we judge and treat people. Jesus did not shun “sinners and tax collectors”. (Mark 2:15-16)
We must also focus diligently on the work of the Holy Spirit within us as He develops in us, with our cooperation, the fruit of the Spirit that is the character of Jesus Christ – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Philippians 2:12-13; Galatians 5:22-23)
I close this column with a quotation from my book, “Be With Jesus, Be Like Jesus, Be For Jesus”:
“With Jesus Christ as our King and the Holy Spirit dwelling within us, we have the authority to become ‘more than conquerors’ and overcome evil with good, darkness with light, hate with love, apathy with compassion, loneliness with community, lies and ignorance with truth, self-centeredness with humility, foolishness with wisdom, injustice with justice and mercy, poverty with generosity and opportunity, cruelty with kindness, disease with healing, and oppression with deliverance – all in the name of Jesus and for His glory (Romans 8:37) This is our mission – to be for Jesus. It is the best way to love others and the best way to love God.”
God bless you, and God bless our community.