Vol. 6, No. 9
~ Page 4 ~
The need to overcome evil with good is just as pressing today as it was when these words were first written. We live in a time of great anger, when revenge is sought by many, if not all. Yet still, the words of the inspired writer command us, as Christians, to do good. We're not only to do good to those who are kind to us, but also to those who have wronged us! The text for this lesson is Romans 12:19-21. "Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.” The emphasis of this lesson will be on the need to overcome evil with good. The meaning of the passage is best stated as, be not so overcome by evil that you do evil in return. As with many things that we read in Scripture, the question isn't so much, "What does this passage mean," as it is, "How does one carry out this passage." This writer would like to offer some suggestions on the meaning of this Scripture and an application to our lives on three levels. We will examine how to overcome evil with good in the world, in the congregation and in the family.
Jesus told us all that we should, "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven" (Matthew 5:16). In order for us to live up to the commandment of our Lord and Savior, we must first of all be involved in some good works. Many times, especially here in the north, few people have even heard of the church of Christ. Good works are essential if the world outside is to know that we exist at all!
Sometimes we neglect opportunities to do good works because we have been overcome by evil. We rarely think about our motivations for the things we do. Many congregations, for example, have given up on Vacation Bible School. The reasons given are things like, poor attendance, no visible responses, expense, waste of time, and -- most unbelievably -- waste of the Lord's resources. Make no mistake; this is a situation in which we have been overcome by evil. Our desire to do good has been wiped out by being overcome with evil. It is surely true that Vacation Bible School is expensive, time-consuming and oftentimes seems to bear little fruit. But, ironically so is the preaching of the Gospel! Are we tempted to give up on having a located preacher, or even worse, eliminating preaching from the worship assembly? The answer is, of course, no! When we allow ourselves to be discouraged by what seems to be our lack of success, we should remember Noah, who preached for a hundred years and only managed to save his family. We need to remember that God's Word will not return void (Isaiah 55:11)! When we allow ourselves to be overcome by evil, we become unprofitable to God!
Another area in which we have been overcome by evil is the area of benevolence. Many times after someone has taken advantage of us, we become reluctant to help those who are going through hard times. We spend too much time trying to ascertain whether or not they brought it upon themselves! Yet God's Word still says: "And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:9-1). This does not mean that we shouldn't be careful in what we do. However, we must be very careful not to allow the duplicity and greed of those who come with their hand out when they don't really need help to keep us from helping others! God knows our hearts! If we are mistaken and out of the goodness of our hearts help someone who neither needs nor deserves help, we still have overcome evil with good! It is God that searches the hearts of men and not us.
We are overcome by evil in the world when we fail to be the voice of God to the public. Many times, as Christians go about their daily walk, they encounter people who are going through trouble in their lives. This is a perfect opportunity to help someone come to the knowledge of God. Unfortunately, this tends to be when we are overcome by evil in that we believe they don't really need our help. We tell ourselves that they will not listen anyway, or that they are so hardened in their sin that they won't give it up. We must overcome evil with good by sharing with them the Gospel of Jesus Christ. No matter how deep in sin they are, or how much they seem to despise Christianity, the Gospel still remains the power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16). We need to be actively searching for converts! When we really believe that we are unable to convert anyone, we have been overcome with evil and are denying the power of God!
We are overcome by evil in the world when we fail to see the value of persecution. At the present time, persecution seems far away. We read about it in the reports of missionaries, but rarely experience it ourselves. The Bible says: "Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution" (2 Timothy 3:12). One preacher once said that perhaps the reason Christians don't feel persecuted is because they're not living godly! Jesus said in Luke 6:26,“Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets.” If those in the world say that we are narrow-minded because we believe the Bible, we should be grateful! While that is a very mild persecution, it at least indicates that we are following the teachings of Jesus. We need to be in the world yet not of the world. Those in the world should feel like we are judging them by our actions. When we refuse to swear, we are judging the world for its profanity. When we refuse to dress immodestly, we are judging the world for its nakedness. We should not think that it is strange that the world wants us to be like it. That is what Peter wrote about in 1 Peter 4:4, “Wherein they think it strange that ye run not with them to the same excess of riot, speaking evil of you.” We should overcome evil with good by rejecting those things in the world and living as Christ would have us live. We pour coals of fire upon the heads of those who speak evil of us when we return kindness and friendship for their worldliness and evil speaking.
Proverbs 6:16-19 reads, "These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him:and he that soweth discord among brethren." It is no secret that many congregations of the Lord's church are right now experiencing a level of discord not seen in quite some time. It seems that many have forgotten what the Scriptures teach about those who cause divisions in the local church. Many congregations have become complacent and unwilling to exercise church discipline on those who desperately need it. We have been overcome by evil in that we have failed to follow the Lord's command to withdraw from the ungodly: Romans 16:17 reads, "Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them." We should learn to practice good, by withdrawing from the disorderly, so that they may be ashamed and return to full fellowship. For too long the practice of disfellowshiping erring members has been neglected. The reason that we have so much discord within the local congregation is because those who practice ungodliness know they will get away with it! Make no mistake; it is both sinful and unkind to allow a brother or sister in Christ to continue in a sin, which will cause him to lose his soul!
Another way that we can overcome evil with good is fellowship. When was the last time that you had a member of the church in your home? Personal interaction between members of the Lord's church is a great way to discourage ungodliness! The Bible says that evil communications corrupt good manners (1 Corinthians 15:33). The best way to keep our manner of life from being corrupted is to spend our time with those of like precious faith! We can overcome evil by supporting one another and caring for one another as we should, being members of the family of God. One of the main reasons that the withdrawal of fellowship is ineffective as a disciplinary measure is because there is so little fellowship among members to begin with!
If we have no fellowship with one another, we will not seem to the outside world to be God's people. Jesus said in John 13:35, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” We have an obligation to have such love one for another that it is undeniable to the world that we belong to God! Christian love is not just a matter of going through the motions or shaking hands on Sunday, but should be a matter of real concern one for another. We should be involved in one another's lives; we should know where the other person works, what their interests are, where their children go to school, and on and on! If we have friends in the world that we're closer to than our friends in the church, what does that say about us?
Perhaps the most important way that we can overcome evil with good in the local congregation is by the development of leaders for the future. Each congregation should be actively engaged in raising up a generation of elders, deacons, preachers, Bible class teachers, those who will visit the sick, those who will take care of the saints, and on and on the list goes! The future of the church depends upon us developing more leaders. We need sound men who know God's Word, who are not afraid to teach others. We need sound women who will teach their children, and young women, how a Christian woman should live! The bottleneck of progress toward expanding the borders of the kingdom of Christ lies at the leadership level. Congregations cannot follow where no one will lead! Paul told Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:2, "And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also." This burden of responsibility lies upon us as well. We should all pray to God for the ability and wisdom to raise up a generation of leaders.
The building block of society is the home. That building block has never been as chipped and cracked in America as it is now! We desperately need to overcome evil in the home, because we will not be able to overcome evil in the congregation, or in the world, until we first overcome it at home. We must first and foremost make a rational assessment of our home life and decide if it pleases God. What does God want in every home? God wants love, obedience and training to be part of every home.
In Titus 2 Paul instructed the older women to teach the younger women to love their husbands and children, and in Ephesians 5.28, he instructed husbands to love their wives. This surely should tell us that the home should be a place of love. How do we show our love to one another in the home? Sadly, many Christian homes today are neither Christian nor homes. Because of the culture we live in, we are so very, very busy! We spend so much time running here, there and everywhere that we are rarely at home. Some families do not even enjoy one meal a week together! There is no such thing as prayer before bedtime or even before meals! We're also very, very busy. It never seems to occur to any of us that it is possible that being so busy is sinful. If we are so busy that we are neglecting the Lord, it is a sin! Many years ago, this writer saw a bumper sticker that said, "If you're too busy for Jesus, you're too busy!" Truer words were never spoken or written!
If the home is to be a place of love, there hast to be time in which that can take place. We should reorganize our lives! We need to make our home life a priority right behind our service to God. We need to make time to be with our spouses. Wives, take the time to make a real dinner this week. Husbands, make the time to sit with your wife and talk to her. As husbands and wives, we need to return good for evil. A Christian man should always have the needs of his wife before his own, and a Christian woman should always have the needs of her husband before her own. One way that we can implement the returning of good for evil in the home is to make up our minds not to say things that are hurtful. If your spouse is being particularly obnoxious, you could go out of your way to be kind. Peter put it like this in 1 Peter 3:9, "Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing."
Mothers and fathers who call upon the name of Jesus Christ will be very careful to put the real needs of their children first. Too many Christian parents are more concerned about their children's involvement in sports, band or cheerleading than they are about them coming to Bible study and worship. God understands our priorities very well. If we deliberately allow our children to choose activities, no matter how honorable they otherwise are, in place of service to God, we have chosen to put that activity at a higher level of importance than God himself. Many parents wonder why their children turn away from the church as soon as they are out of the house. Could it be that they were taught by their own parents that service to God is not that important? What do we think we're teaching them when we tell them it is okay to miss services for this or that? If you are too busy for services, you are too busy! In eternity, it will not matter if your child was the quarterback, the pitcher or first clarinet. It will, however, matter whether or not they put God first in their lives!
We must overcome evil with good, if we are to be the servants of God. We should not allow ourselves to be so affected by evil that we are willing to do evil in return. We can overcome evil in the world by continuing to do good, even when we cannot see the fruit of our labors. We can overcome evil in the congregation by living according to God's Word and showing our love one for another through the things we do. We can overcome evil with good in our homes by making God the first priority in our lives, closely followed by the needs of our family. If we do all these things, our lives will be enriched, the church will grow strong and God will be glorified.