We live in a frightening world where the thought of turning on the news can fill us with dread. I was stunned last week as I watched and listened to the testimony of a man who had escaped the atrocities being committed against Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East. The man went into grim detail about what he had witnessed–entire families being buried alive, young and old suffering torturous deaths–because they refused to abandon their faith. The man was obviously dismayed by the retelling, yet it was as he described the perpetrators of such evil as “animals” devoid of their humanity, that he sobbed uncontrollably. As I watched I realized that he was crying out to God–not for the people who were killed or for those who are still trapped or have been displaced from their loved ones and homes–the man wept as he begged God to save the perpetrators of evil from themselves. As I watched I remembered Jesus crying out on the Cross: “Father forgive them . . . for they know not what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34)
When evil appears to have the upper-hand, how are Christians to respond? It is tempting to react in kind-–“an eye for an eye”—that’s biblical, right? Here is what Jesus had to say about that:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.” Matthew 5:38-42
With regard to dealing with our enemies, Jesus went on to say:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.” (verses 43-45a)
To turn the other cheek, to offer one’s cloak or go the extra mile are not passive acts–they are examples of an intentional Christ-centered love that is not of this world. Such love and prayer should always go hand-in-hand when it comes to dealing with evil. The man in the interview saw the deadness in the eyes of his perpetrators and wept for them–and so should we. We should weep and pray as we remember that it is from such deadness that we have been saved.
When evil appears to have the upper hand, Christian love reaches out intentionally and sacrificially to help those in need. The entire chapter of Romans 12 gives instruction on how we are to respond when evil threatens. It says in part:“Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. (verses 9-13)
The Apostle Paul also warns against repaying evil for evil, but encourages the faithful to trust God to bring about ultimate justice;Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right . . . Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath . . . If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Verses 17,19-20)
As I reflect on all of this I am struck by how much courage it takes to love as Christ has loved us. Over the years I have listened to many a testimony given by people who came to Christ after serving on the side of evil in World War Two. I trust that there are such people caught up in the ugliness of sin, who need our prayers today. Join me in praying for repentant hearts to overtake the evil that appears so rampant. Also, pray for wisdom and a deepened faith as we resist the temptation to repay evil with evil–God IS in control and is worthy of our trust!
All to His Glory!