Facing people who do evil
As followers of Jesus Christ, how are we to interact with people who indulge in wickedness and treachery? We live in a time where evil and injustice are becoming more prolific and it is all too easy to label people as “good” or “bad”. How should we choose to view the world and use our words?
Ultimately, God is most interested in the attitude of our hearts. Here are some principles from the Bible.
1. Remember that God has a plan for evil
No matter what calamity and darkness fall upon us, we can rest assured that God is behind it all and He is always in control. Let us not focus so much on the bad that we blind ourselves to God, our Redeemer and restorer. He promises to redeem our shame and dishonour with a double portion of blessing in heaven, and perhaps also on earth.
Isaiah 61:7 ESV Instead of your shame there shall be a double portion; instead of dishonor they shall rejoice in their lot; therefore in their land they shall possess a double portion; they shall have everlasting joy. For I the LORD love justice; I hate robbery and wrong; I will faithfully give them their recompense, and I will make an everlasting covenant with them.
From history, we can see that things often get really bad before God’s redemptive plan is revealed and His name is glorified. His death and resurrection is one prime example. That is our hope in Jesus Christ – salvation often comes after chaos. So let us not allow our circumstances to drown our hope in God, but instead, wait patiently for His plan to be unveiled.
Isaiah 45:7 ESV I form light and create darkness; I make well-being and create calamity; I am the Lord, who does all these things.
2. Leave judgment to God
Human beings are poor judges of each other. None of us would have chosen a brood of 12 (initially) self-centred men to become our closest companions and disciples like Jesus did. No human being would have anticipated that God would use the main persecutor of the early church, Paul, who was both a murderer and a slanderer, to spread His good news to the Gentile nations, but God did. None of us would have chosen Peter, who denied knowing Jesus three times, to hold the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Sometimes the poorest of characters turn out to be the strongest testimonies of God when they turn their lives to Him, leaving our own testimonies in the dust.
There is an earthly justice system that deals with punishable crimes, but let us be careful not to cast a stone at others and label and condemn them with our words. We are all guilty of abominable sins ourselves; the primary abomination being our pride (described as haughty eyes in Proverbs 6:16).
John 8:7 ESV And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.”
Proverbs 6:16-19 ESV There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.
3. Don’t react, forgive quickly
God calls us to bless our persecutors. The first prerequisite to obeying God is to hold back our automative reflex to tear down our offenders and forgive them quickly. Keeping other people’s offences in our hearts only keeps us shackled to evil. Forgiveness brings healing. God wants us to live free of offences so that we can be filled with His love, joy and peace.
Romans 12:14 ESV Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.
4. Beware the work of Satan and ask the Holy Spirit for wisdom
The apostle Paul made it very clear in 2 Timothy 2 that there may be times we will have to endure evil from those who have been ensnared by Satan to do his will. Many people are lost and bound by Satan and we are to look at them through a lens of grace, instead of a lens of hurt pride and offence.
We need to learn to see people, whom God created, separate from the demonic work in their lives. They need Jesus, just like we do! Often, God will perform His redemptive miracles and set them free from Satan when we extend God’s grace and win them to Christ.
2 Timothy 2:24-26 ESV And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.
There will however, also be certain people who have given themselves completely over to Satan. They indulge in evil and corruption with impunity, without hope for remorse and repentance. In such circumstances, we must put on our spiritual armour and not allow Satan to steal and destroy our spiritual blessings. We must still bless such people through prayer, but draw clear boundaries to protect ourselves and our loved ones. Be wise and innocent at the same time.
John 10:10 ESV The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy…
Matthew 10:16 ESV “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.
Only the Holy Spirit can show us how to respond, whether to extend grace and / or defend ourselves against someone. We need to seek His counsel.
John 14:16-17 ESV And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.
5. Leave the outcome to God, be ready to be a sacrificial lamb
Jesus provided a model prayer for us, and it opens with welcoming God’s will to be done. Many times, we make the mistake of asking God to remove evil and serve our will. This is ungodly. We must allow Him to decide the outcome of evil and corruption, even if it means that we lay down our will and turn the other cheek.
Matthew 6:9-10 ESV Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven…
Matthew 5:39 ESV But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.
Only when we do the unthinkable through grace and love, will people see Jesus Christ through us. We are to overcome evil with good, not just run away from it. Those who wish to live godly lives must be prepared to face persecution and suffering. Jesus left us an example to follow by suffering for us without reviling or threatening his persecutors, but trusting our God who will judge the world. Thankfully like Jesus, those who are willing to be last on this earth are promised prime positions in God’s kingdom.
Romans 12:21 ESV Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
2 Timothy 3:12 ESV Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,
1 Peter 2:20-23 ESV For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.
Luke 13:29-30 ESV And people will come from east and west, and from north and south, and recline at table in the kingdom of God. And behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.”
6. Thank God in all circumstances
Finally and most importantly, we can rejoice and give thanks to God even in the midst of evil. While this is much easier said than done, consider how we will be perceived by outsiders when we refuse to allow evil to overcome us but instead, remain joyful and hopeful? We will truly live as more than conquerors in Christ!
1 Thessalonians 5:18 ESV Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
Romans 8:35,37 ESV Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
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