Orlando mass murders. Stanford rape. Taliban. Isis. It has been a rough week in the land of the free and the brave. People have chosen to use their freedom for evil and have chosen cowardice over bravery.
The following information is shared with you in large part to the work of Pastor Jack Dodgen of Mannford, OK. He shared four helpful insights as to how Christians can respond to evil not only in America but also in the world.
When people have a choice between good and evil there will always be some that choose evil. Even though we know this to be true we are still shocked and sometimes even caught off guard when evil people do evil things. This surprise causes us to do strange, sometimes unchristian, things. Today I want to look at four ways Christians should respond to evil and why it’s necessary that we respond in this way.
Christians Need to Respond with Love
In His Sermon on the Mount Jesus ended his run of six contrasts by telling the God-fearing crowd how they should react to those that are “enemies” (Mt. 5:43-48). In Jesus’ mind an enemy is anyone who persecutes you (5:44), is unjust (5:45), or just doesn’t love you (5:46). In other words the role of enemy is not limited to those that do evil, but includes those that we don’t like, don’t like us, don’t agree with us, etc.
Concerning our so called enemies Jesus commands us to “love” our enemies. This “love” is the love that wants what is best for another person. It’s easy for us to want what is best for our neighbor or our brother, but Jesus asks us to show that same love to everyone we encounter, including our enemies (a sentiment echoed later in 7:12). When evil occurs what is our first response? For many it’s anger or the posting of incendiary Facebook memes. Jesus asks us to respond in love. How do we show our enemies love? The next three points are a good place to start.
Christians Need to Respond with Prayer
“But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Mt. 5:44). When evil occurs Christians should be seen extending prayers to God on behalf of the ones hurt and the ones doing the hurting. It’s easy for us to pray for the ones damaged by evil, but hard to pray for those that caused the damage. If we even get around to thinking about the bad guys our response is to pray that they’d be brought to justice and spread the information of their evil acts across of our social media pages. It’s not that praying for justice is wrong, but the lack of positive prayer on behalf of the evil one is. We can pray for justice, but let’s also pray that those we wish to be brought to justice will be brought to Christ as well. When we pray we pray to a God who punishes for evil actions, but grants forgiveness to those who repent. We need to remember the evil God has forgiven in our lives and pray that those doing evil actions today will be forgiven upon their repentance too.
Christians Need to Respond with Kindness
When evil occurs in our nation it’s not uncommon for me to see quotes of Romans 13:1-7 citing that God has given the government authority to punish evil. While this is true, I think Christians need to go back and read what Paul writes at the end of Romans chapter 12:
“Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Rom. 12:19-21)
Does the government have the authority to be God’s “avenger?” Yes, but that doesn’t mean we root for that vengeance to take place. God sometimes uses the governing authorities to carry out vengeance on evildoers, but He never uses the Christian to do so. God, through Paul, tells us to not seek out vengeance, but to instead show kindness. If our enemy is hungry we feed him, if he is thirsty we give him something to drink. We respond to evil actions with goodness and evil people with kindness. Burning coals may be heaped upon the head of those evil people who remain evil in spite of our goodness, but Christians do not hope for that. Christians respond to evil with kindness in the hopes that the evil one will be overcome with good and change his ways.
Christians Need to Respond with Hope
When evil occurs many people, Christian and non-Christian, respond with fear. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched Christians talk about how the world is going to come to an end because of such and such military power/terrorist group. Why do we fear? First of all Christians, we need to realize that persecution is something that follows Christianity around. Jesus told the apostles that (Mt. 10:16-25) and then immediately told them three times not to fear mankind (10:26-32). Second, we need to stop responding with fear as if this world was our home. As long as I’m a Christian my home is not of this world. We poke fun at the Jewish people in the Bible for expecting a physical kingdom and then cower in fear when our physical kingdom is threatened. We need to quit responding in fear and start responding to evil with hope. Evil men may be able to take our land and our bodies, but they cannot take away our Christ. If we proclaimed that hope in the midst of evil actions we may change the minds of many evil people around us.
When evil occurs Christians need to respond with love, prayer, kindness, and hope. Doing so could result in the salvation of many evil people and at the end of the day that’s the Christian mission.