Overcoming Evil with Good
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“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”—Romans 12:211
It’s interesting that the apostle Paul wrote the verse “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” to the Christians in Rome, because there are some obvious similarities between the social climate of first-century Rome and that of much of the world of today.
Evil was rampant in Rome, and its pull was strong. The Roman Empire hadn’t become the undisputed ruler of the Western world through compassion, kindness, or humility. Wealth was in the hands of a few, and they used it to control the rest. The rich and powerful lived extravagantly while the masses struggled to survive. Perversions and debauchery were practiced by some and ignored by others.
Christianity was just one religion and Christ just one more deity. Considering the pantheon of gods that the Romans worshipped, it must have been difficult to convince anyone that Jesus was “the way, the truth, and the life.”2 Starting to sound familiar?
It is easy to feel overwhelmed by the evil in the world. Every day we hear about another horrible crime being committed. Meanwhile, the popular media searches for new and more horrific ways to portray violence, perversion, and all manner of evil. Whether it’s a case of art imitating life or vice versa, life has lost its sanctity in the minds of many. What can we do about a world so overcome with evil?
This was the same dilemma that the Christians in Rome faced, and Paul’s counsel to them rings true today. “Overcome evil with good.” If a dish is dirty, being angry about the situation does nothing to fix it. Neither does trying to ignore it. The only solution is to expose that dirty dish to the power of a little soap and water.
If a room is dark, you can curse the darkness or whine over how unpleasant it is—or you can flip the light switch or open the curtains and let some light in. It’s the same with society’s evils. We can get discouraged, angry, or depressed—“overcome by evil”—or we can be a force for good, even if only through personal example.
Not every dirty dish will be cleaned, and not every darkened heart will be enlightened, but we can each do our part day by day, person by person, decision by decision.—Marie Péloquin
Put up thy sword
God’s Word says, “Recompense to no man evil for evil.”3 And, “Who, when he was reviled (speaking of Jesus), reviled not again.”4 “See that none render evil for evil unto any man”—that’s in Thessalonians. “See that none render evil for evil unto any man,” and, “be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.”5 Oh, those are the precious admonitions from God’s Word!
Overcome evil with good? How? By showing that you love him. Do him some special favor; take the initiative and go out of your way to tell him of some good thing about him! Maybe his heart is hungering for love, or maybe that woman is wanting someone to talk to her and love her. There’s surely some trait that you can admire.
Now in the natural, you would revile again; it would be tit for tat and hatred for hatred, spite for spite. But the Christian life is not to be lived in the natural. You’ve been born again and old things have passed away, and all things have become new, so says the Word of God.6 You’re a new creature in Christ Jesus. And if any man has not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His.7
What is the spirit of Christ? “When He was reviled, He reviled not again.” His very words on the cross, “Father, forgive them; they know not what they do,” speaks of this spirit.8
Note that He turned to Peter, who had cut off the ear of the high priest’s servant. He said, “Put up thy sword.” And then He put the ear back and healed that ear.9 Say this often to yourself when you have that feeling of resentment, of hitting back: “Put up thy sword, put up thy sword!”
God’s way of getting the victory is always to overcome evil with good.10 This was the message of the cross, and this is the way of the cross. This is the only way evil can be defeated. This will bring you into fellowship with Him and it will win hearts to Him in the end. This was God’s way.
He gave His Son for the sins of the world, but they beat Him and broke His body and pierced Him through. But God took the very blood that they shed and flung it like a scarlet banner across the world, and on it He wrote, “I love you. I have loved you with an everlasting love.” Amen.—Virginia Brandt Berg
How should a Christian react?
How should a Christian react to wrong and evil?—Like Christ reacted in similar circumstances. Jesus chose to overcome evil with good, and so can we.
In His famous Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father 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. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you?”11
Later in that same sermon Jesus also explained that we will receive only as much forgiveness and mercy as we show others: “If you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”12
When some of the first Christians suffered wrongdoing, the apostle Peter advised them to follow Jesus’ own example. “When you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God. For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: ‘Who committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth’; who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously.”13
Those who become bitter, yield to vengeful impulses, and take matters into their own hands instead of trusting God to right the wrongs, usually end up making an even bigger mess of things. Instead of the satisfaction they hope to gain, they wind up remorseful and in great need of forgiveness themselves. But those who put matters in God’s hands and trust Him to make things right in His time find “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding.”14—Alex Peterson
A force for good
Manifesting God’s love is at the heart of becoming a force for good. As the apostle Paul said, “the love of Christ compels us.”15 In whatever specific ways the Lord leads each of us to reach our part of the world with His love, He has called us as Christians to be “the light of the world.” He has told us to “let your light shine before people, so that they will see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”16
Throughout the centuries, since the earliest days of Christianity, Christians have often reached the world through becoming known as a “force for good” in their community. Even when others didn’t necessarily embrace the Christians’ faith or understand their religion, or when they were persecuted and maligned, their kind deeds and good works shone brightly before all men, resulting in people wanting to know what made them so different from much of society.
As Christians, we strive to be agents of change in the lives of others, and ultimately in society. It has been said that “God scattered [the early Christians] throughout the world to salt the whole earth and enlighten all mankind.” When Jesus compared His followers to salt and light, it seems a reasonable assumption that He expected Christians to be embraced by many and for the Christian faith to become as essential as salt and light to many people’s lives. That’s quite a commission and quite a privilege that He empowers us to have an impact on others and be a force for good in their lives.
Being a force for good rests within each of us. As we strive to live and hold true to our Christian values, we can fulfill His commission to be the spice of life of this world; to give its full flavor and meaning to others, to be preservers of the good, and to share our faith—the true currency of the world—with others.—Peter Amsterdam
Published on Anchor January 2020. Read by Jon Marc.
2 John 14:6.
3 Romans 12:17.
4 1 Peter 2:23.
5 1 Thessalonians 5:15; Romans 12:21.
6 2 Corinthians 5:17.
7 Romans 8:9.
8 Luke 23:34.
9 John 18:10–11; Luke 22:50–51.
10 Romans 12:21.
11 Matthew 5:43–46 NKJV.
12 Matthew 6:14–15.
13 1 Peter 2:20–23 NKJV.
14 Philippians 4:7 NKJV.
15 2 Corinthians 5:14 NKJV.
16 Matthew 5:14, 16 ESV.