Our last "to do" in our list of "Rules for Christian Living" is this idea of not letting evil get us down, but rather turning evil around in our world by us doing good. This one seems awful simplistic, especially in light of some of the evil we see around us these days, doesn't it? It is hard to "undo" rape, terrorism, or even the plaguing thoughts of bullying. It is harder still to "undo" the destruction of diseases such as MS, Alzheimer's, or Parkinson's. We might be able to slow the progression of the "evil", but "undoing" the effect it has on people - that is really a thing we just haven't been able to accomplish yet. Look again at our passage. It doesn't say we defeat the evil in this world. It reminds us we can live in such a way that we don't get defeated by the evil around us by living in such a way that goodness if the hallmark of our lives. The idea is that of not being "conquered" by evil. There is but one way to not be "conquered" - it is found in living so close to the one who conquers all things by his power!
Don’t let evil defeat you, but defeat evil with good. (Romans 12:21 CEV)
I think Martin Luther King, Jr. may have hit this idea on the head: "We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies." If we take our passage in context, we begin to understand the truth being taught is that of maintaining a right perspective in relationship - first with God and then with those who are walking right next to us. We started our study by discovering what it means to be "sincere" in our love for each other. Then we moved into this idea of being committed to the relationship - giving it our all and never giving up. In turn, we learn to reach out to others who have definite need in their lives, serving them in whatever capacity the opportunity may afford. Adding the committed concern we exhibit when we are willing to take our friend (and enemy) before the Lord in prayerful thought is definitely a sign we are on the right track when it comes to "acting" within relationship how it is God expects us to act (and react).
We can be defeated by a great many things, but in truth, defeat is really a seed for something to grow if we let it. If you have ever been truly disappointed by something which really didn't work out as well as you wanted it to, you may have found yourself realizing there were other ways to "use" the moment to actually defeat that disappointment. I remember making a new type of fudge one year, only to find out the fudge never would set up. It just was as runny as could be. It may have been a failure on my part which led to the "flop", but when it came to redeeming the moment, we decided to bottle it, then serve it up as an ice cream topping! Now, this may not be ingenious, but it was one way to turn a defeat into a victory! We used the "flop" to create a different kind of "success" in life! This is often what we find ourselves doing in relationship because all of our relationship "moments" will not "perfectly set". Sometimes we need to take those which don't "set well" and use them as seeds to create something even more interesting and beautiful within the relationship!
This is the principle of defeating evil with good. It is the ability to look beyond the bad stuff and see the potential for good to come out of it - even though it means a little more work and a little more time. The fudge required we buy some canning jars (as we made a big, big batch)! We then had to wash them, fill them, label them, and determine where to "store" all this new-found ice cream topping! We wanted to share the fudge as Christmas treats with friends and family - so guess what they got for Christmas - yep, a bottle or two of this exquisite fudge topping for their ice cream! White chocolate, bing cherry, and walnut topping for their evening ice cream splurge! To our delight, they were delighted with our "flop"! This is sometimes how it is in life - when we least expect something good to come from what seems to be a total disaster in life, the best kind of thing can happen. We had friends and neighbors asking for the recipe and even asking for a second jar!
We may not always be able to "ward off" evil, but we can respond to it by a certain strength within which counters the effect it has. We can learn to forgive, but we have to allow the seeds of disappointment to actually come if we are ever to be challenged to forgive! Just sayin!