Evil abounds. The modern world’s 24 hour news cycle covers it live by satellite. We see the victims of evil and violence, and we often hear the sordid tales that perpetrators were once themselves victims. Clearly evil does not overcome evil. It only brings ever widening ripples like a stone dropped in a lake. Evil after evil only keeps the painful cycle unbroken.
How do we overcome evil? We must first accept the cure for our own lives provided by the death of Christ. He died to set us free from sin and death. Having died to sin we must live for God – we must live a transformed life. Paul provides some specifics.
- Bless instead of curse. “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them” (Romans 12:14, ESV). We do not pay back hurtful words, with hurtful words. Don’t let evil grow.
- Don’t repay evil for evil. “Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all” (Romans 12:17, ESV). Someone’s sin against us does not give us permission to sin against them.
- Seek peace. “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all” (Romans 12:18, ESV). Jesus calls peacemakers blessed (Matthew 5:9). Not everyone wants peace, but we should have the attitude that seeks peace.
- Leave vengeance to God. “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord’” (Romans 12:19, ESV). God is better qualified for vengeance. God is without sin. God is completely just, yet merciful.
- Do good to all people. “To the contrary, ‘if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head’” (Romans 12:20, ESV). Paul is quoting Proverbs 25:21-22. “Heap burning coals” should be seen as good deeds pricking the conscience of the enemy and bringing them to repentance.
- Overcome evil with good. “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21, ESV). How does Satan do battle? His lies and deception lead to evil. How will Satan win battles (for he cannot win the war)? By getting us to stoop to his level, to play his game by his rules, by tricking us to do evil.
Overcoming evil with good is not always easy. The inclinations of the flesh must be put to death with the Spirit’s help. But in Christ there is healing for the brokenness inside. In Christ the cycle of evil can be broken. Only goodness overcomes, for Christ has won the victory.