“Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.” Romans 12:21
THIS is a very meaty verse and the form of it greatly assists the memory. It is worthy to be called a Christian Proverb. I would recommend every Christian to learn it by heart and have it ready for use, for there are a great many Proverbs which convey a very different sense and these are often quoted to give the weight of authority to unchristian principles. Here is an Inspired Proverb – carry it with you and use it as a weapon with which to parry the thrusts of the world’s wisdom. “Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.” Observe that the text appears to give us a choice between two things and bids us choose the better one. You must either be overcome of evil, or you must, yourself, overcome evil – one of the two.
You cannot let evil alone and evil will not let you alone. You must fight. And in the battle you must either conqueror be conquered. The words before us remind me of the saying of the Scot officer of the Highland regiment when he brought them up in front of the enemy and said, “Lads, there they are: if you dinna kill them they’ll kill you.” So does Paul marshal us in front of evil and, like a wise general, he puts us on our mettle by saying,“Overcome, or be overcome.” There is no avoiding the conflict, no making truce or holding parley, no suspension of hostilities after a brief skirmish. The battle must be fought through to the end and can only close with a decided victory to one or the other side.
Soldier of Christ, do you need to debate which of the two to choose, victory or defeat? To be utterly overcome of evil would be a very dreadful thing! I shall say but little about it, because I trust we shall, by Divine Grace, be upheld so as never to know by experience what it is to be overcome of evil! May we be “more than conquerors through Him that loved us.” May we be happily ignorant of what it is to be vanquished by the powers of evil and remain like the British drummer boy who did not know how to beat a retreat, for he had never had any use for such a thing! May we not know the dishonor and misery of being overcome of evil because Divine Grace continually gives us the victory!1