“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”  (Romans 12:21 ESV)


Over the weekend another senseless, evil massacre entered the news and the hearts of Christians across this country as twenty-six men, women, and children were murdered by a man who walked into their church and opened fire on the congregation.  These precious people were gathered simply to worship Jesus as many people across this nation are doing.  This was not a racial crime, as some would like to point out.  It was not an Islamic terrorist who did the shooting, as some would like to point out.  No, it was an angry, violent man who came to a town of only three hundred and sixty-two people in search of his mother-in-law.  The violent act of this evil, angry man wiped out seven percent of the town’s population, and most of the church’s congregation.  How will they make it?  How will they adjust to such a tragedy that has fallen on them?  Men, how will we handle such news if evil comes knocking on our door?  Just like there is likely no person in Sutherland, Texas who will be unaffected by this tragedy with the loss of a family member or friend, likewise as this violence increases in America we will also likely be touched in some way.  If we are not committed to a plan of action before it happens, we may very well find ourselves being overcome by evil, for we didn’t know how to face it and entered that evil by joining it.

I heard an retired FBI agent be asked what this country can do to curb the violence we are seeing.  For instance, in 2017 in this nation alone we have seen three churches and their congregations attacked by violence, where thirty people have been murdered while they worshiped.  In 2015 Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church was attacked by a lone gunman and nine people were murdered.  These were innocent non-political victims who simply wanted to safely worship in their church among friends and loved ones.  Then there was the concert in Las Vegas where fifty-nine people were killed and about five hundred wounded.  Before that there were forty-nine people killed in a nightclub in Orlando.  I’m not even mentioning the climate of 601 homicides in Chicago in 2017, and other gang-infested cities where the statistics are similar. Violence is rampant across our nation.

The FBI agent said the obvious that we all have come to see, in that America has become a nation of violence, and we as a nation must pull together to put a lid on it.  He then went on to point out that Hollywood and the entertainment industry must take responsibility for the way they represent violence in the movies and TV.  Their work under their “First Amendment Right,”  is creating a reconditioning of perspectives, and it is feeding social violence in this country.  Until they embrace their responsibility with the negative influence they are having on this country, we will continue to see violence rise.  But what if it did rise?  What if things do not change, but instead gets worse?  How will you handle it?

The scripture in Romans 12:21 speaks of just such a plan when evil comes knocking on our door.  It is not to be overcome by evil, but rather overcome evil with good.  Now some of you may think that this sounds like a pacifist approach for responding to evil.  Let’s understand what a pacifist is before we think that:

pacifist- adj. “holding the belief that war and violence are unjustifiable.”

I’m sure there are those people that think a Christian should be a pacifist, and that violence is unjustifiable.  I am not one of them.  I feel there is a time to take up arms, and to defend family and nation.  But I will repeat “to defend.”  When we defend, it is because we are in some way attacked or threatened.  Even so, violence should not be our first line of defense.  We use that measure when all else has failed.  For a Christian, our first line of defense is to answer evil with good for if we do not do so, then we may very well find that we have joined evil by returning it to another person.

Speaking of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, SC.  I followed that church and watched how the congregation handled themselves.  What an illustration lived out by people who followed the heart of Romans 12:21. As an example, is what Major Naomi Broughton of the Charleston Police Department said: 

 “I’ve never seen the multitude of victims as forgiving as this,” Broughton said. “But there was a lot of angry people. I was angry. I don’t know if I would have been as gracious as those family members were.” 

One of the most dramatic examples of that forgiveness she spoke of came when one of the victim’s mother, Ethel Lance, spoke to the murderer about her daughter.  She said:

“I will never talk to her ever again. I will never be able to hold her again. But I forgive you and have mercy on your soul.”

Here is an example of tremendous courage to do the right thing, when this woman’s grief with losing her daughter was breaking her heart.  Even so, she answered evil with good, and she overcame it by handling it as she did.  Does that sound like a pacifist, or does it sound like a courageous follower of Christ?  You be the judge for yourself.  But I’ll tell you flat out what I think.  She is a hero of the faith, and she is my hero.

I hope that you nor I will never have to face what the people in Sutherland are facing right now, or many other people who are victims of violence.  I would hope that our country would get something right, and cut the head off the violence snake that has taken hold in our society.  But more than that I hope that we will be peacemakers who can make a difference, for this country is in desperate need of it.  Make peace brothers.  Our world needs us.