Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good (Rom 12:21).

This is a very difficult teaching in the Scripture. It is not difficult because it is hard to understand or because it sounds bad in any way. Rather, it is hard to apply because our flesh does not want to apply it.

I am not sure why. Is it years of upbringing and conditioning where the only way to deal with evil is to stamp it out or defeat it by one’s cunning? Whether it is fighting back, or finding a way to avoid conflict whether by omission or by our own actions, we respond to evil with more evil.

But how do we overcome evil with good? I don’t have very good answers, but I’ll give it a shot.

1. Bless and love those who commit evil against you. The Scripture is full of examples for this, but more concretely I’ll just cite Rom 12:14. In the real world, the easy part is to “pray,” though any prayers not from a whole heart are meaningless. Paul warns, “Let love be without hypocrisy” (Rom 12:9). So, other than praying for someone, actually going out of your way to serve, respect, and help those who commit the evil against you is the way to go.

They might not become “unevil” because of it, but it glorifies our God to act the opposite of what our flesh would incline us to. It is very difficult to want to do this and we need to pray to God for help that we may do so with a willing heart.

2. Compel oneself to sacrifice. Personal sacrifice should be expected in situations where we have to overcome evil. The right decision is not going to be the easy one and it will rarely cost us nothing. Our dignity, money, time, and sometimes physical well being can be compromised to varying degrees. To do good to anyone who is doing evil to you is going to require an exertion of effort that is above and beyond what merely doing the right thing would require you to do. So, whether it is a stranger, your boss, or your spouse that is committing evil against you, it is not good enough not to respond back evilly. Instead, in order to overcome their evil with good, it is going to cost you something.

3. Leave to God the consequences. We don’t overcome evil by doing good on our own timing. Don’t expect it to be a silver bullet that will immediately fix the situation. Furthermore, don’t expect it to even ever produce visible results, though oftentimes it may. God never promises that it will add anything to us in this world. Yet, we do so out of a willing heart because it glorifies our Father to be obedient to Him. The Holy Spirit will compel us to live in such a fashion.