“Be not overcome of evil, but may God deliver us from the nature which makes it natural! It is just, no doubt, after a fashion, but from that sort of justice may our Redeemer rescue us! Again, it is admitted that the art of returning evil for evil is very, very easy. If, my dear Friend, you make it a rule that nobody shall ever insult you without having to pay for it, nor treat you with disrespect without meeting his match, you need not pray to God, in the morning, to help you to carry out your resolve. There will be no need to wrestle in prayer that you may be graciously enabled to take vengeance on your adversaries and stand up for your rights! You can do that decidedly better by trusting to yourself than by looking to God! Indeed, you dare not look to God about it at all. The devil will help you—and between your own passion and the Evil One, the thing may be very easily managed. There will be no reason for watchfulness. You need not be on your guard or keep your self in check. On the contrary, you may give to the very worst part of your nature the greatest possible license and go ahead according to the rage of your passionate spirit.
Prayer and humility of mind will, of course, be quite out of the question. Nor will there be any need for faith—you will not commit your case unto God and leave it there—you will fight your own battles, wipe off old scores as you go, and place your dependence on fierce speeches, on mighty fists, or on the law and the policeman. Christian Graces will be too much in your way for you to think of them! Gentleness, meekness, forbearance, forgiveness—you will bid good-bye to these and cultivate the virtues of a savage or of a bulldog. All this is wonderfully easy, though it may be that before long it will turn out to be difficult…
By many, to return evil for evil has been judged to be the more manly course. Years ago if a gentleman imagined himself to be insulted, it was necessary, according to the code of honor then in vogue, for him either to shed the blood of the offending person, or at least to expose himself to the like peril of his life. Thank God that murderous custom is now almost entirely gone from the face of the earth! The spirit of Christianity, has, by degrees, overcome this evil. But there still abides in the world the idea that to stand up for yourself, to just let people know what you are, never to knuckle down to anybody, but to defend your own cause and vindicate your honor has something extremely manly about it. And to yield, to submit, to be patient, to be meek, to be gentle is considered to be unworthy of a man of spirit. They call it showing the white feather and being cowardly, though to my mind, he is the bravest man who can bear the most.
Now, Christian, who is your model of a man? You do not hesitate for a second, I am sure. There is but one model of a Christian and that is the Man, Christ Jesus. Will you then remember that whatever is Christly is manly and whatever you think to be manly which is not Christ-like, is really unmanly, as judged by the highest style of man? The Lord Jesus draws near to a Samaritan village and they will not receive Him, though He was always kind to Samaritans. Good John, gentle John, becomes highly indignant, and cries, “Lord, will You that we command fire to come down from Heaven and consume them?” Jesus meekly answers, “You know not what manner of spirit you are of: for the Son of Man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.”…
Beloved Brothers and Sisters, I beseech you by the mercies of God that you refrain from, forever, the method of seeking to overcome evil with evil, and that you follow the example of your Lord, taking His yoke upon you and learning of Him, for He is meek and lowly in mind.
Let us consider THE DIVINE METHOD OF OVERCOMING EVIL WITH GOOD. And here I freely admit, to commence with, that this is a very elevated mode of procedure. “Overcome evil with good! Ridiculous!” says one. “Utopian,” cries another. “It might do for Plato’s republic,” says a third, “but it will never do for ordinary, everyday life.” Well, I shall not blush to admit that this is a very high course of conduct and one which the mere worldling cannot be expected to follow—but of Christians we expect higher things! You have a high calling of God in Christ Jesus and you are, therefore, called to a high style of character by your glorious Leader, the Lord Jesus Christ!
Brothers and Sisters, if it is difficult, I commend it to you because it is so! What is there which is good which is not, also, difficult? Soldiers of Christ love those virtues most which cost them most. If it is hard to obtain, the jewel is all the more precious. Since there is sufficient Grace to enable us to become like our Lord, we will labor after this virtue, also, and obtain the great Grace which its cultivation requires. Notice that this text inculcates not merely passive nonresistance, though that is going a good way, but it teaches us active benevolence to enemies. “Overcome evil with good,” with direct and overt acts of kindness. That is, if any man has done you a wrong, do not only forgive it, but avenge it by doing him a favor!
Dr. Cotton Mather was never content till he had bestowed a benefit on every man who had, in any way, done him an injury. If anybody has slandered you, or treated you unkindly in any way, go out of your way to serve him. “If your enemy is hungry, feed him.” You might say, “Well, I am sorry for him, but really, he is such a vagabond! I could not think of relieving him.” Yet according to this Scripture, he is the very man you are bound to feed! If he is thirsty, do not say, “I hope somebody will relieve him. I feel no animosity to the man, but I am not going out of my way to give him a drink.” According to your Lord’s command, he is the man to whom you must give drink! Go straightway to the well and fill your pitcher—and hasten to give him a drink at once, and without stint. You have not merely to forgive and forget, but you are bid to inflict upon the malicious mind the blessed sin-killing wound of your hearty and practical goodwill!
Give a blessing for a curse, a kiss for a blow, a favor for a wrong. “Oh,” you say, “this is high. I cannot attain unto it.” God is able to give you strength equal to this, also. “It is hard,” you say. Ah, but if you take Christ to be your Master, you must do what He tells you and, instead of shrinking because His command seems difficult to flesh and blood, you must cry, “Lord, increase my faith and give me more of Your Spirit.” To forgive to 70 times seven would not be hard to Christ, for He did it all His life. And it will not be hard for you if the same mind is in you which was also in Christ Jesus. It is to this that you are called! It is a sublime temper and it is exceedingly difficult and needs Divine Grace, needs watchfulness, needs living near to God—but for these reasons it is all the more worthy of a follower of Jesus and, therefore, we should aim at it with our whole heart.
– C.H. Spurgeon (1834-1892)
taken from: Overcome Evil with Good, Sermon No. 1317, Delivered at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington Lord’s Day Morning, October 8, 1876
HT: Eric T. Young