Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Overcoming Evil

Romans 12:21.  "Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good."  This is a somewhat uncommon favorite verse, but it has always stood out to me.  I love this verse so much because I think it perfectly sums up what is expected of a Christian.  Sometimes, it can be tempting for Christians to live purely on the defensive.  We think that just because we do not lie, or steal, or kill, or [insert sin here], we are living good lives.  It is obvious that there are actions which the Scriptures tell us are sinful and destructive.  However, we walk a dangerous line when our faith consists only of abstaining from those behaviors.  In fact, such a narrow focus can create a path to a different kind of sin.

Much of the Church is content to lock itself away in their church buildings.  They want to barricade the doors against the evil culture lurking just outside their walls.  Once you fall into this mindset, it becomes easy to look down on anyone who does not adhere to your code of ethics.  Pride becomes a real threat as we are tempted to see ourselves as better than the outsiders.  I suppose if you can avoid looking down on the outsiders this is one way we can avoid being overcome by evil.  We can overcome the evil within ourselves by hiding from the world in the safety of our pews.  But, are we really doing any good?

I do not believe that Christ created a Church that would hide out waiting for His inevitable return.  When I look at the Scriptures, I do not see the early Church behaving in this way.  I see a group of people saved by God's grace, empowered by the Holy Spirit, who constantly impact the culture around them.  They gather together regularly to encourage and strengthen one another, but they also reach out in love to the people around them.  When they find out there are people in need, they use their resources to help those people.  They were not overcome by evil.  They overcame evil with good.

When I look at the life of Jesus, I do not see a man who merely tried to be a good person.  Did He live a sinless life?  Yes!  Did He call others to do the same?  Absolutely!  Yet, when he encountered someone who was living in sin, He did not try to avoid contact with that person.  He loved those people.  If they had a need, he filled it.  He healed the sick.  He restored sight to the blind.  He cast out demons.  He served others.  Jesus certainly was not overcome by evil.  And He definitely overcame quite a bit of the evil in the world around Him with good; all before He even made the ultimate sacrifice to defeat evil once and for all.

In the instances when I do see Jesus angry, He is not angry with the sinners He is trying to reach.  His anger is always in the context of trying to straighten out religious people who have become so focused on being good people that they fail to love the world around them.  They strive not to be overcome by evil, but in their striving they fail to overcome evil with good.  In so doing, they actually push people further away from God.

Over and over, the Bible shows us that we are expected to be a force of good in the world.  In Matthew 22, when asked which commandment was the greatest, Jesus answered that loving God was the first and greatest.  Most Christians do a fine job of attempting this.  Jesus followed that up by saying, "The second is like it:  'Love your neighbor as yourself.'"  How much do we strive to live up to that?    James says that true religion is caring for the widows and the orphans.  Much of our religion has been reduced to making sure we are good enough and show up to church regularly.  James also points out the futility of responding to a person who is poorly clothed and lacking food by telling them to "Go in peace, keep warm and eat well," without actually giving them the things that they need.  Faith without works is dead.

Good is the only thing that can overcome evil.  We can react to evil in any number of evil ways and possibly keep it in check for a bit, but it is only a temporary fix.  A child can stop a bully's tormenting by giving the bully a beating.  However, this only keeps the bully from making the child the target of his aggression; there is no real change for the better.  If anything, the bully has one more reason to be angry.  If someone wrongs us, we can respond by bringing them pain, and they may leave us alone.  But, that person is not really changed; they are only too afraid or hurt to deal any further with us.  In the long run, forgiveness and love are far more powerful than anger and wrath, which only bring selfish quick fixes.

I am not naive enough to think that evil will be totally obliterated by our kind actions.  Ultimately, God will remove the remaining evil from the world.  What I do think, though, is that we are to be a force of good in the world.  The Church should be something that heals and helps, not something that ignores the people outside and leaves them struggling with their pain.  When all is said and done, only forgiveness can stop the cycle of bitterness and hatred.  Only generosity and charity can reverse poverty.  Justice is far stronger than vengeance.  Pride is inferior to humility.  And love always overcomes hatred.

The world is in desperate need of God, and we aren't going to lead them to Him by hiding out in our buildings and creating our own safe culture.  We need to be out in the world taking care of those in need.  We need to show God's love to others in tangible ways.  God has saved us and broken sin's grip on our lives.  He has cleansed us and He is making us holy.  Now, he expects us to use our new lives not to hide from the world, but to change the world.

So, go make a difference.  Read Romans twelve.  Do not be overcome by evil, but don't forget the second part of the verse.  Go out and overcome evil with good.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Hello, World

overt  adj. [oh-vurt]  open to view or knowledge; not concealed or secret
thinking  n.  [thing-king]  thought; judgment, reflection; opinion

I used to love blogging.  Then, I came to college, learned what real homework and classes were like, and struggled to balance said schoolwork with a job and some semblance of a social life while maintaining a relationship with a girl who eventually became my lovely wife.  The last 4.5 years have been amazing, but they did not leave much time for me to maintain my old blog.

As I near the end of my college career, I find that I finally have a good bit of free time again.  I miss the days of posting my thoughts and then engaging in a discussion on the topic with a variety of people from a variety of backgrounds.  So, I decided it's time to start a new blog.

I thought "Overt Thinking" would be a perfect title, since a blog basically consists of a person or group's thoughts and opinions which are open to viewing.  As of right now, I do not have a very particular focus for this blog.  I will be posting on a wide variety of topics ranging from important matters like faith and the impending zombie apocalypse to frivolous subjects such as a comparison of hot fry brands.

If you happen to stumble across this blog and see a post that catches your eye, I encourage you to contribute to the discussion.