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 words or teachings and did them would be like a wise man who built his house on a rock. The house would not fall when the storms came. These were Jesus’ commandments, and those who love Him would obey them. (Matthew 7:24-25; John 14:21.)
One of those commandments is to love your enemies and bless those who curse you and hurt you and persecute you. (Matthew 5:38-45.) In the Old Covenant, it was an eye for an eye. In the New Covenant, Jesus made a way for us to do it completely differently.
Overcome evil with good
Paul wrote that we should not take revenge ourselves, that is something we have to leave to God. Only He can do it in a righteous way. We are not to repay evil for evil, but take into account what is good for 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 should not become evil ourselves.
It is easy for us to defend ourselves and react when someone is against us. We find sin in our human nature that tempts us to get angry, take revenge, answer back and defend ourselves. It’s common to want to have the last word in a situation so we feel like we are right. It’s common to judge, accuse, criticise, and go to others to get support for ourselves. The truth is, this is exactly what “overcoming evil with evil” is.
These temptations are common to people, as we read in 1 Corinthians 10:13. And when these temptations come, there is a way out, a way of escape, that God has made for us so we can handle them. In other words, so we can overcome them!
Jesus overcame all these temptations and showed us a way to take up things as He did. “When he was insulted, he did not reply with insults. When he suffered, he did not threaten revenge. Instead, he entrusted himself to the one who judges justly.” 1 Peter 2:23 (CEB). He humbled Himself, leaving it to God to judge the situation. He did not allow His feelings and thoughts (His own will) to control Him. He did exactly what He heard from the Father. (Hebrews 10:7.)
The opportunities are always there
We don’t need to have big fights or misunderstandings with people to see the sin in our own nature; it could be as simple as when someone doesn’t agree with what I say. It can really be difficult not to react quickly.
We need to obey what James writes, to be slow to speak, slow to get angry, but quick to listen, humbly receiving the words God has planted in our heart, which are able to save us from our soulish reactions. (James 1:19-22.) The Spirit strengthens us with the Words which we’ve heard and learnt, so that we can say “no” to the thoughts of defending ourselves or hitting back. We have to humble ourselves, just like Jesus, and be obedient.
Paul testified that he was troubled on every side, persecuted and struck down, but he always carried the “death of Christ” in his body, so that he responded how Jesus would have responded. (2 Corinthians 4:8-11.) That is truly what it means to overcome evil with good! Then we find and create peace instead of conflict! And the fruits of the Spirit grow in us!
We’ll always have opportunities to find the sin that lives in our human nature and overcome this sin for Jesus’ sake. These are opportunities for us to get more of the fruits of the Spirit. When we are treated unfairly, we can go to God for help, so that we can respond with patience, mercy, compassion, goodness, and love. This has a much better effect on the people we are dealing with than reactions from our sinful human nature.
These words 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!