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Overcome evil with good

As divisions and hatred rage in our world, Christians overcome evil with good.

A yard of someone you consider a friend is covered with campaign signs for the wrong candidates. Your coworker uses language that hurts your ears. Divisions and disagreements rage all around us about everything, don’t they? Every conversation—every interaction—provides more proof of how different we all are.

And we’re supposed to love our neighbors. How? It’s hard enough getting along with people at church. Out there? It seems impossible. How do we love our neighbors when they are so different from us? How do we deal with people who don’t seem to agree with us about anything? What do we say when our insides are screaming, “We are not the same!”

Not winning the argument

I know what I want to do: I want to win the argument. I want to be right! In my free moments, my mind wanders to how to crush other people’s ideas. Does your mind do that too? I imagine how I will shoot down whatever arguments they make. Expose their opinions as foolish. Win. It feels good to be right. It feels good to crush imaginary opponents’ opinions in my mind!

But one verse from the Bible keeps wriggling into my thoughts: “Overcome evil with good.” Have you heard that? There’s more: “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. . . . Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. . . . If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. . . . Do not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:14,16-18,21).

Those verses hit home in my heart. Overcome evil with good? Too often, I try to overcome evil with arguments. It doesn’t work! Have you argued someone into faith in Jesus? I haven’t. Or I try to overcome evil with evil of my own. Insults. Sarcasm. That never ends well either.

Our primary goal isn’t to change people’s opinions or behaviors. It’s to change their hearts.

Maybe God is on to something: “Overcome evil with good.” When God tells us not to repay evil with evil, it’s because Jesus already paid for all evil with his death on the cross. All of it. That includes your sins and my sins and your neighbor’s sins—forgiven! Every single one. The answer to evil and sin isn’t an argument. It’s Jesus. On his cross, Jesus overcame evil with good.

“Bless those who persecute you.” Remember what Jesus said to the soldiers who crucified him? “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). “Be willing to associate with people of low position.” Remember the common accusation against Jesus? “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them” (Luke 15:2). When you hear that, say, “Yes! That means Jesus loves me.”

Overcoming evil with good starts with Jesus filling us up with his grace. Jesus’ grace changes our mindset in our interactions with others. It’s not about trying to win an argument or prove ourselves right. We want others to believe
in Jesus as their Savior too.

Changing hearts

Think about this: If a person doesn’t have faith in Jesus, it really doesn’t matter what they think about abortion or creation. If a person doesn’t have faith in Jesus, it really doesn’t matter what their sexual lives are like or what language they use or what political party they vote for. Our primary goal isn’t to change people’s opinions or behaviors. It’s to change their hearts. Right?

So how do hearts change? Where does faith in Jesus come from? You know! “Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ” (Romans 10:17). Only a changed heart can lead to a changed life. So the Bible encourages, “Take . . . the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:17). We Christians have one tool. Just one weapon. What is it? The Word of God! Want to change hearts? Share the gospel. Get to Jesus!

I’ve found that this takes a lot of patience and personal relationships. God’s Word works, but it doesn’t work according to our timing. Like a seed growing under the ground, God’s Word works in hearts in ways that we can’t see. Trust it! And that seed of God’s Word is best planted in a personal relationship. God uses Christian love shown over and over again to break down defenses. To open doors. Don’t think in terms of days or weeks. Think in years. It’s worth it!

A pastor once had a member make a bet with him: “I bet you a case of beer that my father-in-law, Bob, will never join your church. He’s too stubborn!” Years later, Bob ended up in the hospital. The pastor visited him. He went back the next day, and the next day too. When it was time for Bob to go home, the pastor offered to keep visiting him. Bob shrugged and said that would be okay. The pastor kept teaching him the Bible. Guess what? Little by little, it changed Bob’s heart. He came to faith in Jesus. He joined that Lutheran church. And his son-in-law brought the pastor a case of beer! God’s Word worked through a patient, personal relationship.

Whose life could you touch? Don’t share that nasty blog post. Share a verse from God’s Word. Don’t argue about political opinions. Share some food, a smile, and a reason for hope in Jesus. Don’t get easily offended. Don’t be surprised at sin. Don’t expect a changed life before there’s a changed heart. Instead, with God’s grace pulsing through your veins, “overcome evil with good.”

Because those people who seem so different from you really aren’t. Actually, we all have way more in common than we think. We’re all sinful. We prove that every day! But we’re also all loved by Jesus who died for us. When you see that person and hear their ideas, when your insides scream, “We’re not the same!” remind yourself, “Yes we are! We’re sinners loved by Jesus.”

A man once called our church and said, “I’m at the hospital. My wife is dying. I don’t know if she believes in Jesus. Please come and help her believe in Jesus.” So I went to the hospital. The man told me her story. She had problems with alcohol and drugs. In his words, she hadn’t been a very nice person. But as he watched his wife die, he had one thing on his mind: “Pastor, you have to tell her how Jesus has forgiven all of her sins. Tell her that Jesus died to forgive her for everything. I just want her to be with me in heaven!” That’s how you overcome evil with good. It’s a man in tattered jeans saying, “Jesus loves you. Jesus forgives you.” Over and over again. How needed is that? As divisions rage in our world, Christians overcome evil with good!

This is the final article in a two-part series on dealing with others in love.

Author: Nathan Nass
Volume 107, Number 11
Issue: November 2020

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