Triumph of Good Over Evil

Thursday: Christ’s Example

Romans 12:21 In this week’s studies, we are reminded that not only are we not to retaliate for evil done to us, but we are actually to do good to others and to overcome evil by our good conduct.
Christ’s Example

If we are to learn what it is to overcome evil with good, and actually overcome, we must study the example of Jesus Christ. For this is what Jesus did, and if He is our Savior, we will love Him and want to be like Him in this as in His other acts and characteristics. 

Charles Hodge has written, 

One of the most beautiful exhibitions of the character of our Savior was afforded by his conduct under persecution. ‘He was led as a lamb to the slaughter’; ‘when he was reviled, he reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not.’ Even martyrs dying for the truth have not always been able to avoid the prediction of evil to their persecutors, so much easier is it to abstain from recompensing evil for evil than really to love and pray for the good of our enemies. This, however, is Christian duty; such is the spirit of the gospel.1

This is what moved John Perkins, whose story of being beaten in Brandon, Mississippi, I told earlier this week. He saw the enslaving nature of white racial hatred as he was being beaten. But it was later, as he was recovering in the hospital that God directed him to Jesus and by this means began to work powerfully on his heart. He wrote, 

The Spirit of God worked on me as I lay in that bed. An image formed in my mind—the image of a cross, of Christ on the cross. This Jesus knew what I had suffered. He understood. He cared. Because he had gone through it all himself. 

He too was arrested and falsely accused. He too had an unjust trial. He too was beaten. Then he was nailed to a cross and killed like a common criminal. But when he looked at the mob who had crucified him, he didn’t hate them; he loved them. And he prayed, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing’ (Luke 23:34). 

His enemies hated, but he forgave. God wouldn’t let me escape that. He showed me that however unjustly I had been treated, in my bitterness and hatred I was just as sinful as those who had beaten me. And I needed forgiveness for my bitterness. 

I read Matthew 6:14, 15 again and again in that bed: ‘For if you forgive men for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men, then your heavenly Father will not forgive your transgressions.’ To receive God’s forgiveness, I was going to have to forgive those who had hurt me. As I prayed, the faces of those policemen passed before me one by one, and I forgave each one. Faces of other white people from the past came before me, and I forgave them. I could sense that God was working a deep inner healing in me that went far back beyond February 7, 1970. It went clear back to my earliest memories of childhood. God was healing all those wounds that had kept me from loving whites. How sweet God’s forgiveness and healing was.2

Nothing in all history has done so much to heal deep human hurts and redirect otherwise resentful and retaliating lives than the example of Jesus Christ who “suffered for us…that [we] should follow in his steps…. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sin and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls” (1 Pet. 2:21, 24, 25). 

Important as the example of Jesus Christ is, that example alone is not enough. We must also be close to Christ and strive to draw closer to Him always. Nor is merely being saved enough, otherwise Paul would not be urging the Romans to this high standard of conduct, as he is doing. It would be automatic. In order to live as Christ we must first belong to Christ, and second draw close to Christ, indeed striving to draw closer to Him always. Charles Hodge says, “We must remember that without Christ we can do nothing…. If, therefore, we attempt to discharge the duties here enjoined apart from him, we shall be as a branch severed from the vine; and unless we are ‘instant in prayer,’ this union with Christ cannot be kept up.”3

Paul was weak himself. He called himself “the worst” of sinners (1 Tim. 1:15). Yet he also said, “I can do everything through him who gives me strength” (Phil. 4:13). So can you, if you stay close to Jesus. 

1Charles Hodge, A Commentary on Romans (Edinburgh and Carlisle, PA.: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1972), 404. Original edition 1835. 

2John Perkins, With Justice for All (Ventura, CA.: Regal Books/GL Publications, 1982), 100-101. 

3Charles Hodge, A Commentary on Romans, 404.

Study Questions
  1. Why should we study Jesus’ example of overcoming evil?
  2. What are the two components of living like Christ?
  3. How was Jesus treated unjustly during the last week before His resurrection? How did He respond to evil?

Application: How are you called to imitate Christ in specific areas of your life?

For Further Study: Download for free and listen to Philip Ryken’s message, “The Faith to Forgive.” (Discount will be applied at checkout.)

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