Just as darkness is more than the absence of light, so evil is more than the absence of goodness. Evil is a power that impacts us all. As nations, as communities and as individuals we experience evil. But it does not always present itself as the ugly villain. It even presented itself to Jesus in Peter’s concern for Jesus’ welfare (Matthew 16:21-23). For Jesus’ definition of good and evil is that only God is good and all goodness comes from God while evil is that which seeks to thwart the will and purpose of God. Then we, as followers of Jesus, are, as Paul puts it in Romans 12:9, to hate what is evil and to hold on to what is good. It’s not one without the other. First of all we need to know what is good in the sight of God and this can be summarized in the word love – generous, other-affirming, creative, sacrificial love. Not self-seeking love, not I’ll-help-you- if-you-help-me kind of love, not limited to liking or being drawn toward another person, but genuine agape or godly love. In Romans 12:10-20 Paul spells out a little further what this love looks like. It includes friendship, humility, joyous hope, patience in suffering, perseverance in prayer, giving to those in need and providing hospitality; blessings replace curses on persecutors. In this kind of love empathy and harmony come to the fore; retaliation becomes a thing of the past; peaceful coexistence is always the aim. This is just a very slight indication of what genuine love looks like, but it givers the gist of it. First of all then know what God calls good. We need this base from which to discern the forces of evil. Without it we define evil as that which threatens us and instead of hating what God hates we hate whoever threatens us, personally, racially or nationally. Evil is not all lodged in our enemies. It is in our midst. It is there nudging at our own hearts and minds. The way to overcome evil is not to descend to its level, but to override it with what is good.
- Why are the words “goody, goody” regarded as a derogatory term?
- Paul wrote, “Let love be genuine”. Compare genuine love with fake love.
- George W. Bush, in 2002, famously called Iran, Iraq and North Korea an axis of evil. What does ‘overcome evil with good’ mean in regard to this kind of evil?
- If God defines what is good, how do we know what is evil?