I was just reading this passage from Romans 12 this morning, and I was reminded of the Saddleback Civil Forum. Rick Warren asked both candidates if there was evil in the world, and if so, what should we do about it.
Both candidates gave lame answers–which reveal the weaknesses of each political party. McCain said that evil existed, and we should “defeat it!” The crowd ate it up. Republicans pride themselves on recognizing the need to defeat evil.
Obama gave a long rambling answer, that only fed into popular stereotypes about Democrats–conservatives often accuse liberals of refusing to name evil. (I don’t think that’s fair, but it’s true that many of the liberals I know are generally uncomfortable with good-and-evil rhetoric.)
Later, Tony Campolo told us what both candidates SHOULD have said. They should have quoted Romans 12:21 “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” This morning, I found a great speech by John Paul II on this passage–I hope you find it as meaningful as I did.
And here’s the full passage from Romans 12:
14Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position.[c] Do not be conceited.
17Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. 18If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,”[d]says the Lord. 20On the contrary:
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”[e] 21Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
2 thoughts on “Overcome evil with good”
I think Campolo is right on the mark! McCain may have accurately described what is evil, but the unfortunate thing is that there are other “evils” that could be named. Obama wishes to give a nuanced answer but forgets that it fits the stereotype of the typical liberal. I wish both candidates would have quoted Romans 12, or at least paraphrased it in principle, because that’s how we defeat it entirely, whether it be with our neighbor, our government, or the enemy abroad who wishes to destroy us.
I think it is important to define who “we” are in the statement, “that is how we defeat it entirely.” Is our government the collective “we” who can defeat entirely “the enemy abroad who wishes to destroy us”? I think our government, like all governments are and have been, is a part of the world system, the principalities and powers that Paul speaks of from time to time, the “Caesar” in Jesus’ statement “render unto Caesar that which belong to Caesar” etc. If the “we” is a collective body of those who long, pray, and work for God’s rule “on earth as it is in heaven,” we will be very careful about identifying “enemies abroad” as enemies of God’s rule on the basis of their unfriendly orientation toward the Caesar under whom “we” happen to live.
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