Why it is to your own advantage to overcome evil with good
It’s common to want to defend ourselves or retaliate in some way if we think we are mistreated. But is that the way Jesus taught us to go?
In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus taught about what He had lived, showing us the way that we should go. Jesus said that whoever heard these sayings and did them would be like a wise man who built his house on a rock. The house would stand when the storms beat against it. These were Jesus’ commandments, which those who love Him would obey. (Matthew 7:24-25; John 14:21.)
One of those commandments is to love your enemies and bless those who curse you and spitefully use you and persecute you. (Matthew 5:38-45.) In the Old Covenant, it was an eye for an eye. Jesus made a way for us to take it completely differently.
Overcome evil with good
Paul wrote that we should not avenge ourselves, for vengeance is God’s business. Only He can administer it in a righteous manner. We are not to repay evil for evil, but to regard what is good in the sight of all men. We are not to be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good! (Romans 12:17-21.) When someone is evil toward us, we are not to become evil ourselves.
The strong human tendency is to defend ourselves and respond in kind when someone comes against us. We find sin in ourthat wants to lash out, avenge ourselves, threaten, answer back and justify ourselves. It’s common to want to have the last word in a situation so we feel like we’ve come out on top. It’s common to judge, accuse, criticize, and go to others to gain support for ourselves. The truth is that to react like this would be to try to overcome evil with evil. These temptations are common to man, as we read in 1 Corinthians 10:13. And when these temptations come, there is a way of escape that God has made for us so we can bear them. In other words, so we can overcome them!
Jesus overcame all these temptations, and made a way for us to take things as He did. “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.” 1 Peter 2:23. He humbled Himself, committing the situation to God to judge. His feelings and thoughts (His own will) were not allowed to dominate Him. He did what He heard from the Father. (Hebrews 10:7.)
The opportunities are always there
We don’t have to have large confrontations with people in order to find our lives; it could be as simple as being contradicted. It can really be a suffering not to react impulsively. We need to obey what James writes, to be slow to speak, slow to wrath, but swift to hear, receiving with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save us from our soulish reactions. (James 1:19-22.) It’s in these times that the Spirit strengthens us with the word which we’ve heard and learnt, so that we can deny the desire to defend ourselves or retaliate in some way. We have to humble ourselves, just like Jesus, and be obedient.
Paul testified that he was hard pressed on every side, persecuted and struck down, but he always bore in his body the dying of the Lord Jesus, so that he responded with the virtues of Jesus. (2 Corinthians 4:8-11.) That is truly what it means to overcome evil with good! Then we find and create peace instead of distress and conflict! And on top of it, the evil in our own nature – those passions and desires that come up from our flesh – is overcome with good! We grow in virtue; the fruit of the Spirit grows in us!
We’ll always have opportunities to find our life and lose it for Jesus’ sake. These are opportunities for us to grow in the virtues of Jesus. When we are treated unrighteously we can, by going to the throne of grace for help, respond with patience, mercy, long-suffering, compassion, goodness, and love. This has a much better effect on those with whom we are dealing than reactions from our flesh.
These lyrics from a song show us clearly how we can overcome evil with good:
“Will you follow Him daily, denying yourself?
Will you walk on the new, living way?
Follow Him, who when hated responded in love.
Will you walk in His steps every day?”
(From the BCC songbook, Ways of the Lord #314.)
Then we will really become like the wise man who built his house on the rock. Nothing anyone says or does will be able to move us!
You may be interested in reading more on our topic page about overcoming sin, or in the articles below:
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.