Romans 12:21: “Don’t be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
This famous verse written by Paul to the Roman congregation, while well-known, is much less practiced than it is widely known.
The word for overcoming comes from the Greek root word which means victory, or conquest. The famous Nike statue known as winged victory (the armless, headless torso of a woman with wings spread wide) is based on this very same Greek word.
This famous verse comes contextually on the heels of Paul explaining how vital it is for believers to treat others, especially those who are adversarial, with uncommon love and respect.
Romans 12:17-18,20: “Repay no one evil for evil. Respect what is honorable in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as it is up to you, be at peace with all men. … Therefore “If your enemy is hungry, feed him. If he is thirsty, give him a drink;
for in doing so, you will heap coals of fire on his head.”
Paul here is actually quoting an Old Testament principle that is found in the book of Proverbs:
Proverbs 25:21-22: “If your enemy hungers, feed him; if he thirsts, give him drink; for so doing you shall heap coals of fire upon his head, and the Lord shall reward you with good.”
This was also a core teaching of Yeshua in the Sermon on the Mount, demonstrating a thread of consistent emphasis throughout all of scripture. It was obviously given fresh life and emphasis in the teachings of Yeshua, and then deeply ingrained into the mindset of the early believers.
Matthew 5:44-45: “But I tell you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who mistreat you and persecute you, that you may be children of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust. “
Yeshua explains that practicing this ideal signifies the believer as a true child of God. A child of God carries the same spiritual DNA as its parent and will therefore conform to the practices of the parent.
This ability to overcome is rooted in the concept of forgiveness, as no one can truly bless their enemies unless they have let infractions go. It is one thing to follow the command with gritted teeth, uttering curses under our breath, trying to be faithful to what we have been tasked to do. However, it is another thing entirely to truly forgive someone who has wronged us, and to serve them honestly from the heart. To be able to practice this overcoming quality, believers must be willing to forgive. Doing so enables us to actually and effectively practice this vital principle that Yeshua commanded us.
This idea of being born of God and overcoming is also carried forward by the apostle John. This is the only other passage in the New Testament that speaks of this ability to overcome, or be victorious.
1 John 5:1-5: “Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God. Whoever loves the Father also loves the child who is born of him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep his commandments. For this is loving God, that we keep his commandments. His commandments are not grievous. For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world: your faith. Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?”
Our faith in the Messiah allows us to overcome the world, and in overcoming the world, we are therefore afforded the ability to overcome the evil that is present everywhere. This is the scriptural solution to evil in the world. It begins with obedient children of God respecting and honoring all others in a way that honors God.
This is how God‘s plan for the dominion of believers in the world takes place, not through conquest and bloodshed, not through political reform, but through simple forgiveness and honest service to others in the name of God.
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