As President Joe Biden begins his leadership of the United States, he has made calls for peace, reconciliation and unity in the nation. Former President Donald Trump issued similar thoughts in some of his outgoing speeches.
The desire for peace and unity is warranted after all our nation has been through in the last year, from riots in major cities to chaos at the capital. I agree wholeheartedly! Words are a start. But, where do we go from there? It is easy to say, but hard to do.
I always look to Jesus and the Bible in times like this, which gives us a command to live by that is relevant, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21).
Jesus illustrated how to do this. He spent much of his three-year ministry doing good to the people of His nation. He fed the poor, healed the sick, raised the dead, cast out demons, stilled dangerous weather, forgave sins and taught people how to live godly lives. He was hailed by the people and built an incredible movement rapidly. Lives were being changed day by day. Jesus and His work was great for the nation. Yet, the leaders constantly condemned him. He was viewed as a threat. They were continually plotting and scheming to stop his ministry and eventually it rose their most desperate reaction – murder. They conspired to kill Him and succeeded (for three days).
How did Jesus respond to this evil aimed at Him? He never returned evil with evil, instead, He returned evil with good. While He was dying unjustly on His cross, He prayed for those who put Him there saying, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).
Jesus did not respond with bitter, angry words demonizing his opponents. Rather, in a calm and peaceful tone, He spoke truthfully and graciously. When they splattered evil upon Him, He patiently responded, showering them with undeserving grace.
Did this change a nation? Yes! Three days later Jesus rose from the dead, then a short time after that, His followers went across the nation speaking about His life and teachings. Multitudes were transformed and began to overcome evil with good as Jesus did. Did it vanquish the nation of evil? No. Jesus did not promise that. Through His resurrection, He overcomes evil. He triumphed over it. And when we turn from our sin and trust in Him with all our heart, that resurrection power comes to live with us. Therein lay the answer. With Christ in us, evil does not have to control our hearts. Instead, we can be controlled by the love and peace of Christ.
What is the opposite of this? There is a statement in the Bible that says if we return evil for evil instead of good, then evil will perpetually live in our house. We will never be rid of it because of constantly encouraging it. In our natural humanness, our instinct is to fight back. We feel justified in doing so because of the evil done to us. Consequently, we use all the levers of power and influence to retaliate. In such cases, evil remains in control, and round and round we go.
Through the spirit of Christ working in us let us not bow to the temptation to speak evil of those whom we oppose. Let us be truthful, not flattering, with wisdom and kindness. Forgiveness is a choice and command. Through the risen Lord, forgive those who have harmed you and continue to do so, refusing to acknowledge their wrong. Do not allow the dark, sharp and bony fingers of evil to grip your heart.
Yes, we can work towards a more peaceful nation, but it can only be done through the transforming power of Christ in us. Only He has the power to enable us to overcome evil with good. Turn to the merciful Savior and invite Him to change you and give you peace.
A prayer for you – “Lord God, You are the only hope for our nation. You, working in the hearts of people. Rid us of selfishness, pride and a spirit of revenge and retaliation. Let us return good to the evil thrown at us. Help us when we are weak. Help us to love and forgive. In Jesus name. Amen.”