Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.—Romans 12:21
Since becoming enemies of God, mankind has often been bent on being enemies with one another. Cain killed Abel out of petty jealousy, and since that time we long to have a person nearby on whom we can practice our own jealousy or angst or revenge. Good movies have bad villains, and such is true in our own lives—we long for villains to overcome. Even our friendships are oftentimes built upon a mutual dislike for some common third-party. Because evil is prevalent in the world, we grab hold of it and wield it, like a child with a sword.
And often we rationalize this evil. It is okay to wish this or that person harm, for the very fact that they cause harm to others. It is fine to gossip or slander for isn’t the person we are slandering guilty of the exact same thing?
Our evil is made okay in our own eyes, without our consulting how we look in God’s.
But this isn’t to be our course. We are not to measure our own action based upon the level of evil of others. Instead, we are to overcome evil, not with more evil, but with goodness. We meet thievery with generosity, gossip with loving silence, and belittlement with encouragement. We are to overcome this world with good, and not give in to the carnal weakness which begs us to take revenge at all costs.
And yes, this is difficult—what biblical mandate isn’t? But bear in mind the commandment is not dependent upon situation. There is no “evil threshold” with which one can opt out and take revenge. In fact, many of the people Paul was writing to were encountering a much starker evil than what we do. Sure, that doesn’t devalue our own struggles and need to overcome, but it does mean that whether our life is at risk (as such was the case to some of the early Roman church) or we are being accosted on Twitter, we are to overcome evil. Great evil. Small evil. We are to rely on God’s Spirit and Christ’s work and example, and be light in the world.