Defeating evil by doing good: United Methodists offer hope
Two unrelated stories came out within days of each other. One is about terror, the other about healing. One tells of people torn apart, the other of our connectedness as a human family.
The first story you know well. Terrorists attacked innocent people. On Thursday, November 12, 2015, 43 people lost their lives and another 200 were wounded by suicide bombers in Beirut. Soon after the group calling itself the Islamic State (ISIS) claimed responsibility. The next day in Paris, at least 129 people were killed and hundreds more wounded in coordinated terrorist attacks by ISIS.
The other story is lesser known. On Monday, November 16, The United Methodist Church announced that we have raised 90% of our goal—$68 million of a $75 million goal—to combat malaria. The results already seen through the work of the Imagine No Malaria campaign are astounding. By providing bed nets, prevention programs, health care facilities, training for health workers, and more, malaria deaths are nearly half what they had been—and we are moving toward eliminating malaria deaths completely.
These two stories appear unrelated, even conflicting, but maybe they’re not.
There is this Bible passage that seems to bring them together:
If possible, to the best of your ability, live at peace with all people. Don’t try to get revenge for yourselves, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath. It is written, Revenge belongs to me; I will pay it back, says the Lord. Instead, If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink. By doing this, you will pile burning coals of fire upon his head. Don’t be defeated by evil, but defeat evil with good. (Romans 12:18-21 CEB – the words in italics are quotes from the Hebrew Scriptures, Deuteronomy 32:35 and Proverbs 25:21-22 respectively)
Many of us felt defeated by evil the weekend after the attacks. We wondered what we could do in the face of this kind of hatred from those who literally want to kill us. We debated national policy, and questioned if anything could have prevented these tragedies. The situation seems unresolvable.
It is to people like us the Apostle Paul wrote, “Don’t be defeated by evil, but defeat evil with good.”
This is the way of the Bible, the way of Jesus. We are not to “fight fire with fire,” but rather to overcome evil with good.
Good, like healing those who are sick with malaria and making sure no one else has to suffer. Good, like feeding people who are hungry, clothing those who are naked, and giving a drink to one who is thirsty by serving our local food bank. Good, like visiting those in prison, and welcoming the stranger. Jesus said that when we do these things—or choose not to—for those in the greatest need, we are doing—or not doing—it for him (Matthew 25:31-46).
Maybe this is how we combat evil as followers of the Prince of Peace. Maybe the answer is to refuse to enter into the story of violence, and tell a better story instead.
The better story is the Gospel story. The story of the Kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven. It is the story lived and taught by Jesus about loving neighbors and enemies. It is the story of feeding 5,000 people and healing those who are broken. It is the story of carrying the pack of an occupying soldier two miles when you’re only required to carry it one. It is the story of meeting the needs of those lowered through a roof, who have enough faith to touch the hem of a robe, or who haven’t the strength to help themselves. It is the story of welcoming the sinner, the lonely, the outcast up a tree, and maybe, just maybe, entertaining angels without even knowing it.
This is the story of life and healing. This is the story with the ability to overcome evil with good.
The Apostle Paul greets the people in Rome with these words, “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 1:7 CEB)—a greeting he was fond of using in many of his letters. As followers of Christ, may this be our greeting to one another and our invitation to the whole world in word and deed.
We hope you have found many examples of good overcoming evil as you have reflected on these recent events. We welcome you to share those stories of hope below in the comments section.