“Be not overcome of evil but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:21)

When a big Sergeant in a Highland regiment was asked how he was brought to Christ, he told his story. “A young private in my company was a Christian. The rest of us gave him a hard time. One night he came in wet and tired from sentry duty and kneeled in prayer before turning in. I threw my boots at him and hit him on the side of the head. He just kept on praying. The next morning I found my boots by the side of my bed beautifully polished. I wanted the Saviour that private had.” That Christian private fulfilled the Biblical command to “Overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21). The negative side of this is Paul’s command, “Do not repay anyone evil for evil” (Romans 12:17).  Revenge for evil is the natural human reaction, but Paul wrote, “Do not take revenge” (verse 19).

Our Lord Jesus Christ gave the pattern for the Christian response. On the cross He prayed, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34) Following Jesus’ example, the first Christian martyr, Stephen, prayed, “Lord do not hold this sin against them” (Acts 7:60). The cynic may not endorse the principle, ‘Do unto others before they do unto you”. But he certainly approves, “Do unto others as they have done unto you.” The Lord Jesus, however said, “So in everything do to others what you would have them do to you.” (Matthew 7:12)

In the same way Paul wrote, “Bless those who persecute you” (Romans 12:14). Live in harmony with one another” (Romans 12:16) and if it be possible, as far as it depends on you, “live at peace with everyone” (Romans 12:19). This is still ultimately God’s world, and He says,  “It is mine to avenge; I will repay” (Romans 12:19).  By acting in this way, we are not “overcome by evil.” but overcome evil with good. This is a tall order, a tough assignment. But with God’s help you can do it.

In the days of the American revolutionary war there lived at Ephratha, Pennsylvania, a plain Baptist Pastor, Peter Miller who enjoyed the friendship of General Washington. There also dwelt in that town one Michael Wittman, an evil-minded man who used all his power to abuse and oppose that Pastor. But Michael Wittman was involved in treason and was arrested and sentenced to death. The old preacher started out on foot and walked the whole seventy miles to Philadelphia that he might plead for that man’s life. He was admitted into Washington’s presence and begged for the life of the traitor. “No Peter,” said Washington, “I cannot grant you the life of your friend.” “My friend,” exclaimed the preacher, “He is the bitterest enemy I have!” ‘What?’ cried Washington, “You have walked seventy miles to save the life of an enemy! That puts the matter in a different light. I will grant the pardon.”And he did. And Peter Miller took Michael Wittman from the very shadow of death, back to his own home in Ephratha – but he went no longer as an enemy but as a friend.