Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them...
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Romans 12: 14, 21 NRSV
Persecution is not something we think of everyday. Often it is something we associate with the news of the world, or images from the movies. Yet, the reality is that persecution comes in many different forms, and in all kinds of conflicts. We can see it in harassment, bullying, abuse, discrimination, oppression and many other negative behaviors. The problem with conflict is that it often escalates, and brings out the worst in us.
I once went to a workshop on conflict. Conflicts can be categorized using a five-point scale, with one being the lowest level of conflict and five being the highest. The leader of the workshop explained that the higher the level of conflict, the less likely it could be successfully resolved. In fact, at the highest level, neither side even cared about winning, much less resolving the conflict. All that matters at that high level is a desire to destroy the other side. Tragic!
The message given to us by the world is to fight fire with fire. Curse those who are your enemies. Even destroy them if you can! Sadly, so much of what used to pass as polite political discourse has devolved into the worst possible behavior. Unfortunately, many politicians believe they have the right to act in such an extreme manner! Then things escalate, as one bad behavior leads to another. In the end, there is only gridlock, unresolved conflict, and hostile feelings for everyone.
God’s word reminds us that you cannot overcome evil with evil. It just doesn’t work.Throughout Paul’s Epistles, he reminds us that we are called to a higher standard. In spite of how others treat us, we are not to respond with equally bad, or even worse behavior. No! Just the opposite! Christ wants us to fight evil with love.
The Hebrew word for Blessing means “to kneel, to praise”. When we are in a kneeling position, we are vulnerable, and definitely not fighting back. Even the social convention of shaking hands was originally meant to show that we were not holding a weapon. It is hard to have a fight with someone who is humble and vulnerable. Abraham Lincoln once asked, “Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?” Good question!
When we set out to bless others, even those who see us as enemies, the Lord will find amazing ways to use us. This is why it is so critical that we choose a path of blessing and goodness. Otherwise, we may become evil in our pursuit of defeating evil. Our Lord knew this truth, and that is why the evil of our sin was only overcome by an act of love. When Christ died for our sins upon the cross, love won out over evil. Such is the power of love!
In the words of the Message translation of Romans 12: 21, “Don’t let evil get the best of you; get the best of evil by doing good.” Amen.
It is so easy to find conflict in our world. Forgive me when I add to the problem, or just say nothing. You call me to fight against evil only by following You. Help me to love my neighbors, and even those who consider me their enemy. Bring out the very best in me, so that others will desire to have Your peace. I pray this prayer in the name of Your son, my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.