If you have suffered a great evil, you know how easy it is for that evil to overcome you, for you to be defined by it, for the evil that was done to you to dominate your life.
But Scripture tells us good news! The evil you have suffered does not need to define you. God says: “You are in Jesus Christ. Don’t let that happen to you! Do not be overcome by the evil that surrounds you or by the evil that has been done to you! Something better is possible for you. You can overcome evil with good.”
Where do we begin, if we want to overcome evil with good? Here is where I would start:
- We need to pray.
- We need to raise up godly leaders in every sphere of life – in the schools, in business, in the arts, in politics, etc.
- We need to teach our children the difference between right and wrong. We need to get them grounded in the Scriptures.
- We need a new surge of evangelism and church planting.
All of these are good and necessary things, but none of them are what God says in Romans 12.
Let love be genuine.
Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.
Love one another with brotherly affection.
Outdo one another in showing honor (Rom. 12:9-10).
Begin With Genuine Love
Christians loving each other would not have been at the top of my list of strategies for overcoming evil. It is very striking to me that, when God lays out the steps that lead to overcoming evil with good, the first thing He says is, “Let love be genuine.” If you want to overcome evil with good, this is where you must begin!
Here is priority #1. This is what we must do, when evil is all around us. This is what we can do because we are in Christ. God says, “Do this and you will overcome evil with good: Let love be genuine.” In other words: “Love must be sincere.” It must be authentic! There must be no pretense – no play acting, nothing fake or false. Let your love be the real deal.
The plain implication of, “Let love be genuine,” is that in the course of our lives, we may come across something that looks and sounds like love, but it turns out not to be the real thing. So, what does genuine love look like? What does genuine love do?
3 Things that Genuine Love Does
1. Genuine love hates what is evil.
Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. (Rom. 12:9)
To “abhor” is to have a horror of something. If you love what is good, you will abhor the evil that destroys it. If you love truth, you will hate lies. If you love peace, you will hate war. To abhor evil is part of loving what is good. Notice that God says, “abhor what is evil.” We are to “abhor what [not who] is evil.”
We are not called to rage against the captive soul. We are to love the captive soul and to rage against the captor – who is Satan, our enemy. That is our call to war, and it’s really important that we understand it.
It is very difficult to win people to Jesus if you have branded them as “the enemy.” Our calling is not to win some sort of cultural war. Our calling is to reach out to, and woo, and seek to win every person to Jesus Christ.
2. Genuine love begins at home.
Love one another with brotherly affection. (Rom. 12:10)
The real challenge is to love the people God places around you – the people in your home, at your church, in your workplace, and on your street. So, look at who God has placed in your life. Your calling is to love these people well.
Christ calls us to love all people, even our enemies. But loving your enemies is hard. Here’s where we begin: God calls us to cultivate genuine love within His family. Love “one another” with brotherly affection.
Learn to love well by loving your brothers and sisters in Christ. Other believers stand beside you in grace, and one day they will stand beside you in glory. When the world gets darker, Christians get closer. Let the relationships in the church be an incubator of love, so that when we go out into the world where it is more antagonistic, we know something about love.
3. Genuine love lifts other people up.
Outdo one another in showing honor. (Rom. 9:10)
This relates to the way in which we speak to one another and the way that we speak about one another. We live in a culture that thrives on putting other people down. But God says, “Let it be different among you!”
With all the good that has come with social media, and the way it helps to connect people, social media has also given a new platform for anger. We live in the world of the attack ad and the attack website. Every time you put something on social media, even if you never meet the person face-to-face, remember God knows and God knows your name.
The church is called to something different: Our calling is to lift up who Jesus is! When that happens, people who may have little in common in this world are brought together. Christ calls us to be a community of people who lift each other up in a culture where people pull each other down.
Does the church do all these things outstandingly well? Not always. Too often it becomes about us and what we want. And when that happens, we end up being a mirror of the world. But Christ says, “You are called to love.” Genuine love is immensely attractive. We are all drawn to love. And we all want to be authentic. Authentic love, genuine love is where we must begin if we are to overcome evil with good.
This article is adapted from Pastor Colin’s sermon, “Overcoming Evil with Love,” from the series Overcoming Evil.