Romans 12:21: Overcome Evil with Good!

goodness

Overcome Evil with Good

Romans 12:21

Overcome Evil with Good!

Richard Hollerman

The basic command is brief, startling, and even profound. Most people have great difficulty in applying it to their life situation.

Paul writes: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21). It is normal and natural for a person to seek revenge of his enemies, but the apostle writes, “Never pay back evil for evil to anyone” (12:17a). He further says, “Never take your own revenge, beloved” (v. 19a). Paul calls on us not to do the “natural” thing but the spiritual and the supernatural response. Instead of returning evil for their evil, God has an entirely different way of dealing with personal offenses.

goodness

Overcome Evil with Good

Paul explains in verse 20: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.”  The person dominated by the flesh does what “comes naturally” and that is to withhold water instead of giving the enemy a refreshing drink! By doing this, according to Paul, we will “heap burning coals on his head.” Although we don’t have a clear explanation of what Paul means by this reference, it may refer to leading the offender to repentance and forgiveness because of a guilty conscience. If it is correct, our kindness may actually bring the person (our enemy) to repentance—and even salvation!

The basic command says, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (v. 21). The common, everyday person will be “overcome by evil.” He or she will react with anger, bitterness, resentment, hatred, or active retaliation. Instead of these carnal or fleshly responses, Paul commands a response that some would claim is difficult or even unnatural. He says, “Overcome evil with good.”

goodness

Overcome Evil with Good

Your opponent or enemy will probably not expect such a response. While expecting your reaction of bitterness or slander, your actual response of love, kindness, and mercy, may change his or her response and bring repentance.

When you respond in this non-retaliatory and non-resisting way, you will be following in the steps of Christ Jesus. Peter tells us:

You have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously (1 Peter 2:21-23).

You are not to pay evil for another person’s evil, for Christ refused this natural response. But Paul says to not only refuse to do the negative and carnal wrong thing; we are to do the right thing! We are to “overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21b).

goodness

Overcome Evil with Good

Think of how you can apply this. Over the years, you have suffered dozens of offenses, wrongdoings, and instances of slander against you. How have you responded? With hatred—or with love? With bitterness—or with patience and submission? With retaliation in act or words—or with outgoing love and kindness? With bitter resentment and inner turmoil—or with outgoing  love and good deeds?

We know that in the end, God Himself will exercise His wrath and vengeance over those who hurt, harm, abuse, belittle, slander, and do wrong against you. It is not your place to take your own revenge, for God is the one who will one day repay (cf. Romans 12:19). God wants you to exercise “nonresistant love” toward others, including your enemies.

Think about how you, personally, can bless others who have sinned against you. Has someone taken away one of your possessions? You can pray for that person but maybe you could actually give something to him. Has a person denounced you or said cruel things to you or about you? Could you say something positive to that person? As Paul wrote, “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse” (Romans 12:14). And Peter adds, “Not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing” (1 Peter 3:9).

The world thinks that it is justified and even proper for a person wronged to have bad feelings toward the one who does the wrong. It is different for you! We are to be “blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world” (Philippians 2:15).

In this dark and sinful world, where people hurt others as a way of life, you have the opportunity to “overcome evil with good.” Begin to practice this today. In fact, be willing to go back and do something good—a good deed—to your enemy. Give the person a gift. Say something positive and good to that person. “Give a blessing,” to use Peter’s phrase.

We are called to be different from the world, and this will include the way you respond to those who hurt you with their words or actions. Don’t be overcome by evil. Instead, overcome evil with good. Follow in the steps of Jesus, the great Lover and the great Giver.

goodness

Overcome Evil with Good

 

 

 

Comments are closed.