“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
The Apostle Paul wrote those words to Christians in Rome under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit nearly 20 centuries ago, but I don’t think those words have ever been more relevant than they are right now.
The most recent round of senseless mass shootings has me wondering if we here in America have either forgotten or just stopped believing in the truth and power behind those words.
There are tens of millions of people who call themselves Christians (of one stripe or another) in this country, and I count myself among them. But, if we’re perfectly honest with ourselves, can we really say we’re overcoming evil with good – or is it the other way around?
To give credit where credit is due, it appears that many of those living in those devastated communities in Uvalde and Buffalo are finding ways to shine the light of love and faith and hope amidst their shock and grief and in defiance of the evil that suddenly and unexpectedly intruded on their lives.
I guess I’m thinking more about the long term and the big picture.
Looking back over what I have observed during the course of my own life, it certainly seems that we who claim to be followers of Christ and His ambassadors in this world have lost a lot more ground than we have gained, spiritually speaking.
And that’s got me asking myself some tough questions.
Have we grown too tolerant or even comfortable with things we never should have put up with in the first place?
How often have we been silent when we should have spoken up or failed to act when we should have acted?
Have we become more focused on money and stuff and politics and what other people think than on showing God’s love to a dying world and pulling people out of darkness into the light?
Do we really care enough to reach out our hands to those who are drowning, or are we okay to just look the other way as they go under?
When we tell someone we’re going to pray for them, do we actually take the time to do that, or are we just spouting empty religious platitudes?
Are we really running this race to win it, or do we just look up from the pursuit of our own interests now and then to grumble about how bad the world is getting?
And how would I answer all of the previous questions if I replaced every we with an I?
Now I’m not saying all this to condemn or discourage anyone, and I’m preaching to myself more than anybody.
And when it comes to things like mass shootings, I can’t really claim to know how best to fight or prevent that kind of evil. But I strongly suspect it grows and festers in places of isolation and disconnection and anger and hopelessness – places where the light of love has grown dim and where dark, negative influences have become pervasive.
Shining a light in dark places is something we can all do and something we have been called to do (if we can find the courage) – and it’s something we need to get busy doing. The hour, I fear, is getting late.
But in order to shine God’s light and love, we have to draw close enough to Him that He can fill us with His light and love. And that, I suspect, is where we (and I) most often fall short of the mark.
I’m not suggesting that we Christians should blame ourselves for all the evils and all the screwed up, crazy people in this world or that we should beat ourselves up for not being super saints every minute of every day.
But I do think we too often underestimate the positive impact we could have and the transformative power of the One who has called us to be His hands and His feet and His voice in this world.
I believe good can and will overcome evil. But it’s going to require good people asserting themselves, stepping up and speaking up with courage, and refusing to surrender any more ground to the growing darkness.