“Do not be conquered by evil, but conquer evil with good.” (Romans 12:21)
There is no shortage of evil in our world. Sometimes it appears that evil seems to be winning. We see much godlessness, brutality, deception, and betrayal running rampant in our world. We see it at all levels of society and culture. In some places in our world, evil oppresses Christians directly. Governments restrict Christian activities. Leaders and people of other faiths persecute Christians. In other places the oppression is more insidious. Law and economics are used to bring pressure against Christians to get them to just keep their beliefs to themselves. Standards (called “political correctness”) are established to present a challenge to the values that Christians espouse and teach. Adherents to such things see themselves as “good.” Isaiah warned, “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil.” (Isaiah 5:26)
Romans 12:21 reminds us that we must not give in to evil, whatever form it may take, and that, in fact, we must actively and aggressively conquer evil with good. In the verses around verse 21 Paul shows us how we can do this.
Love is the starting point. Paul wrote that love must be genuine, not hypocritical. It is not love when we say we love someone but then act in ways that do not support that statement. Rather, that is the definition of hypocrisy. People usually know when love is genuine. They not only feel it, but they see it. Interestingly, even a dog can look into a human being’s eyes and tell if the person is friend or foe. Children have a way at times of seeing right through subterfuge. Love must be genuine, not feigned.
Pride is also relevant here. To conquer evil, we have to reject all pride and conceit as unfit for Christians. Pride ultimately creates barriers to relationships and to the expression of goodness. Humility breaks through such barriers.
Peace is important as well. The peace Paul speaks of here is relational peace, and such peace is something we can only approximate. We have absolute peace with God through the blood of Christ, but in human relationships we mostly get close and then closer. When tensions rise relationally peace wanes, but when we resolve the tensions we begin moving once again toward peace.
So, we conquer evil by practicing love, humility, and peace.
Lord, Help us today to not be conquered but to conquer any evil in our path by practicing that which is God in Your eyes. Amen.