Recently I was reminded of the age old question, if God is so loving, why doesn’t he stop evil in the world. This is both a concerning and personal question, but it also raises the problem that humanity faces. Adam, when he was confronted with his transgression of eating the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, implied God was responsible for his mistake. He declared that the woman whom God had given him, gave him the fruit and he ate. Adam refused to take responsibility for the evil that he had introduced to the human race. Mankind has been refusing to take responsibility for the evil in the world ever since. The question about God addressing evil does the same thing. It ignores humanity’s responsibility for evil’s existence and its continuation in the world. Paul, the apostle, addressed both the problem of evil birthed by Adam and the solution to evil resolved in Jesus in his treatise to the Roman people. When we arrive at chapter 12 of that letter, Paul gave us very practical advice on how we can address the evil around us. In considering his teaching, we should remember that he is speaking to individual followers of Jesus. He doesn’t expect those who don’t know Jesus to live this way and neither should we. In any case, his instruction is surprising, but not new, Jesus instructed the same in his Sermon on the Mount.
Paul wrote to the Roman followers of Jesus to bless, not curse, those who persecute, or hurt, them (v. 14). How might our world be different, if those who know Jesus were to bless those with whom they disagree, rather than showing disrespect? When was the last time we blessed someone who has hurt us? Further on, Paul instructed to never pay back evil with evil, but to live at peace, as much as possible with all men and never seek your own revenge, leaving that to God (v. 17-19). Revenge and payback are natural responses to being hurt, even something as simple as withdrawing from a relationship with someone who has hurt us or with whom we disagree is a form of revenge and paying back evil with evil. Paul summarized his teaching with a powerful statement. We are to overcome evil with good (v. 21). Do you realize what Paul said here? Evil can be overcome and does not require a position of power and authority! As we confront evil with goodness received from Jesus, evil is defeated. In other words, we who follow Jesus, are responsible for conquering and defeating evil in the world, simply by inspiring those around us with the goodness and peacefulness of our lives and relationships.