Romans 12:21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Two wrongs don’t make a right. That is something we try to teach kids at an early age and try to live out. The problem is that it can be extremely difficult to do. Think for a minute, If someone does you wrong how do you react? If we are to honestly answer this question we probably wouldn’t be very proud of what we would say.
Our next fruit of the Spirit is goodness. Webster defines it as “the quality or state of being good.” I don’t like when definitions use the word they are trying to define. Another way that goodness can be defined is, “doing what is morally right.” As Christians who are lead by the Holy Spirit we should be looking to what is right. Taking it to another level, we should be looking to do right even to someone who has done us wrong.
It is human nature to feel like we have to get even or sometimes even isn’t good enough we want to get back with more than what they have done to us. It can quickly turn into an escalating back and forth battle with no end in sight. This goes against how the Bible calls us to live. As Christians we have to be the ones to break the cycle. We have to put aside what someone has done to us and treat them the way the Bible tells us to, with love. I know what your thinking, wait a minute Matt, you want me to love someone that has hurt me? I think that is asking too much isn’t it? Jesus lived out that example for us on the cross. He loved and was dying for the very people that were wronging Him.
If we really want to understand how we can overcome evil with good we can look at a few verses that come before Romans 12:21. Look at what verse 17-20 say…
Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”i
There is a lot of good stuff in those verses that are pretty clear to understand. You could say they are very simple but I assure you they are not easy. Verse 17 makes it clear that evil for evil is wrong. When I read that we are to ‘be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone’ I am reminded how doing what is good often goes against the norm. To live as a Christian is to live often means swimming up stream.
Verse 18 is one of my favorite verses, but boy is it difficult to live out! The phrase, “if it is possible, as far as it depends on you…” tells us that we don’t just try one or two things to be at peace with someone. We have to try any and every way possible to be at peace with them. This is so upside down compared to the worlds view. This is a verse that I wish my junior high kids would learn and live out! It doesn’t just stop with junior high though. It is something as adults we struggle with but something we need to constantly be trying to improve on.
Verse 19 is powerful because it reminds us that for us to seek after revenge is to steal from God. We are told “It is mine to avenge.” When we take things into our own hand we are stealing what God wants to be in charge of. I can promise you that when you take situations like this into your own hands and don’t leave things up to God you will look back and wish you had handled it differently. Trust me I understand how hard it is to wait on God to do his part and I know he may not always do it the way we think he should but His ways are higher (and better) than ours, no doubt about it!
The last verse gives us some specific examples of how to react to our enemy. They can be expanded to say, “If your enemy has a need, meet it.” That is such a power thing. Often when people hurt someone it is because they themselves are hurting. They have a need that isn’t being met physically, emotionally or spiritually. When someone does evil to us we need to try to understand why they have done it. We need to see the problem isn’t them it is the sin in our world. We should look past what they have done and help them in any way that God has provided for us to.
No more tick for tack! Lets start to try love for hurt, grace for pain, mercy for misery and good for evil.