CLAY CENTER — Hollywood has made billions of dollars off movies that feature an evil villain that commits unthinkable death and destruction. Then a hero rises in victorious retaliation against the villain and the crowd cheers. Why do we like these? Because there is something inside us, that wants to retaliate when evil is committed against innocent people; especially if it is ourselves, loved ones or friends.
But how does God say we should respond when someone wrongs us? His Word tells us to “never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’” (Romans 12:19) And it goes on to say, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Rom. 12:21) Let us admit, this is not easy. It does not come natural to anyone.
Jesus provides us an example through an encounter with His enemies. The religious leaders gathered to strategize how they could deceitfully trick Jesus into saying something they could arrest Him on. One day they approached Jesus with all sorts of flattery, then posed their question to entrap Him, “Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” (Matthew 22:17)
Jesus, being God, saw the evil intent in their hearts and how they only wanted to do Him harm. Therefore, He could have refused to answer their question. Instead, He chose to respond, “‘Why put me to the test, you hypocrites? Show me the coin for the tax.’ And they brought him a denarius. And Jesus said to them, ‘Whose likeness and inscription is this?’ They said, ‘Caesar’s.’ Then he said to them, ‘Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.’” (Matt. 22:18-21)
Notice how Jesus exposed the evil in their hearts, and would not allow the religious leaders deceitful behavior to be covered over. Observe also how Jesus wisely spoke godly truth. The rulers presented something that needed an answer, so Jesus gave a wise response.
He overcame evil with good. Are you familiar with the word nike? It is not just a shoe company; it is the Greek word for “overcome,” which means to conquer and implies war. Jesus knew He was engaging in a spiritual battle with His enemies and conquered their evil with good.
Good means overcoming evil in an honorable and upright way, which first begins in the heart. A heart that is filled with nothing but the love of God for our enemies. In love, not retaliation, Jesus answered His opponents by wisely exposing their lie and sharing with them the truth. During His suffering through the events of the cross though, He responded to His enemies differently, speaking little and often remaining silent.
Though the methods of overcoming evil with good, can vary based on the situation, the one constant is the heart. Seeking to always have a heart that resists retaliation, and chooses to respond in an honorable and upright way that pleases God.
But who can live this way? The one man who did, can enable you. If you call out to Jesus and admit your failings, He can pour His Spirit within you. And through His Spirit, He will provide all you need to live victoriously in the face of evil.
A prayer for you. “Lord God, search our hearts to reveal any bitterness or anger toward those who have harmed us. Help us to forgive and remove any desire to retaliate. And give us wisdom to know how and when to speak to our enemies, and when we should be silent. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”
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