False teaching. Apathy. Greed. Lust. Anger. Coldness to the gospel. Idolatry. Gossip. Slander. Selfishness. All of these are evil. And any person who spends time ministering to others with the gospel—especially those involved in church planting—will see these evils manifested often. We see them in others and we see them in ourselves.
How do we respond to cultists who knock on our neighbor’s door and preach a false gospel? How do we respond to those in our community who care nothing about God? How do we deal with a culture that trains us to put ourselves before others or embrace a foolish worldview? Surely the answer is not to overcome evil with evil. We should not become mean-spirited or vindictive, or self-righteous or bitter. And we should not replace preaching the gospel with entertainment and rely on something other than the gospel.
I would suggest we turn to Romans 12:21 as we face evil: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Recently, the Lord used this verse recently in my own heart to convict and reorient me. I had found myself discouraged by some of the evils mentioned above and I was tempted to respond in sinful ways to the evils around–and within–me. I was tempted to overcome evil with evil! This blog post is a reflection on how we can respond with good when faced with evil.
Here’s three ways we can, by God’s grace, seek to overcome evil with good:
Overcome Evil Through Prayer
One we way overcome evil is through prayer. We pray for those who wrong us (Matt 5:44) and for those who are not responsive to the gospel message. We pray that God moves in their hearts and that God gives us love for them. We pray for those who slander us. And we pray for God’s grace to respond with integrity and truth and love, instead of bitterness or hate or sin.
Overcome Evil With Love
God calls us to love our enemies (Matt 5:44b). We seek to do good to them. We seek their welfare. This does not mean that we excuse or wink at sin, or that we never speak a word of rebuke or call to repentance, or that we enable or coddle sin. There certainly is a place for these things, and God calls us to “speak the truth in love” (Eph 4:15). Yet, even as we do respond with truth, we must love those around us, especially those we find unlovable or are tempted to hate. This is only be possible through the Holy Spirit filling and empowering us (Gal 5:22-23).
Overcome Evil Through Gospel Proclamation
We overcome evil through faithful gospel proclamation. We speak the good news of the gospel of Jesus, including his life, death and resurrection. We call others to repent and believe. False teachers, spiritually apathetic individuals, the proud, the distracted, and those give their hearts to anything other than the one true and Living God need to hear the bad news that they are sinners and the good news that Jesus died for sinners (Rom 5:8). And we need to hear this good news in our own hearts again and again, because the evil we see out there, is often lurking in another form within our own hearts and lives.
May God grant us His grace to not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.