Defeat Evil with Good

 
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There is concrete, real evil in this world. But running and hiding from evil men does no good. When a man becomes a predator, he'll eventually turn his attention on someone else, track them down, hunt them, and prey upon them. More often than not, a predator believes he's doing good for himself, his family, his community, or the world. It's remarkable what a man can convince himself to do when he believes it's good, and it seems that a limited imagination is the only thing that restricts the horrors people will inflict on each other in the name of doing good.

An evil man will prey upon others out of self-interest, self-preservation, and self-satisfaction. That's what's so horrific about evil. Self-interest is the stimulus of all evil. Self-interest wrapped in the belief that "this is good for me, my family, my community, and the world," which means that nobody's immune from doing evil. No one is excluded from becoming a predator. When doing good is the justification, anyone can excuse maiming, and killing, and torturing. He can even grow to love it.

But, what about each of us? Are we killers? No. Are we torturers? No. Do we feel horror when we hear the news about an abused child? Yes. But, then, why are we fascinated by the facts of the case? If we believe that we're immune to and safe from, evil, then why do we allow ourselves to be sucked in, even entertained, by images and stories about violence, suffering, and death? Answer: No one's safe from evil. No one's immune to the effects of evil. No one's exempt from doing evil.

But, we're not made to treat others like pieces of meat on a chopping block. We're made to love God and our neighbor. We’re made to love them in a selfless, self-sacrificing way. Self-sacrifice, not self-interest, is the purpose and goal of our life. Is our neighbor bone of our bone, flesh of our flesh? Yes. Are we our brother's keeper? Yes. Is the greatest love we can show our neighbor to give our life so he may live? Yes. Selfless love and self-sacrifice are how we defeat evil with good.

But, we're so easily defeated by evil. We believe to our core that so long as what we're doing is good for "me," or our family, or our community, or the world, how can what we're doing be evil? Because everything we do we do out of self-interest, self-preservation, and self-satisfaction. We'll even sacrifice our own flesh to accomplish what's good for "me." And we justify this by telling ourselves, "What's good for me is good for everybody."

When we reject that we can do evil under cover of doing what's good, that's when we become a predator. When doing good is the justification, we can excuse maiming, and killing, and torturing. We can be sucked in and entertained by it. We can even grow to love it.

Peace comes when we give up worrying about self-interest, self-preservation, and self-satisfaction and instead keep our eyes fixed on good God and Savior Jesus.
— Donavon Riley

We'll continue to be sucked in and entertained by evil until we admit that there's only one who is good: God. Jesus alone is good. Our selfless, self-sacrificing God and Savior is good. He defeats evil with good by sacrificing Himself. We can't do it. We can't defeat evil with good, not apart from Him. Apart from Jesus, there's no ultimate, Godly good. Apart from Jesus, we're prey, sheep waiting to be slaughtered by wolves. More than that, sheep who are easily convinced that it's good to join the wolf pack, especially when they claim only to want what's best for us.

Apart from Jesus, there's no ultimate, Godly good. But, when we are with Jesus, we're good because He's our good. With Jesus, our baptismal vocation is clear: love our neighbor in a selfless, self-sacrificing way. Self-sacrifice, not self-interest, is the purpose and goal of our baptismal vocation. Sometimes that means we've got to put up our fists and fight to protect our neighbor from evil men, as Abraham, Joshua, and Samson did. At other times, it means we push a plate of food across the table, like Lot, Rahab, and Martha did.

Peace comes when we give up worrying about self-interest, self-preservation, and self-satisfaction and instead keep our eyes fixed on good God and Savior Jesus.
— Donavon Riley

With Jesus, we're free to humble ourselves, forget what we are, and stand with our neighbor so we can help him, even if it means giving up our life so he can live. This is the only way we will find peace with God and our neighbor. Peace comes when we give up worrying about self-interest, self-preservation, and self-satisfaction and instead keep our eyes fixed on good God and Savior Jesus. His words. His baptismal promises. His body and blood sacrificed for us, given to us for the forgiveness of sin. Then when our neighbors are attacked by evil men, what must be done will be clear to us whether we are meant to stand up and strike back against the evil men who attack our neighbor, or whether we are meant to go down, pick them up, and carry them out of the ditch where they've fallen. Then we can say with St. Paul: "I am happy to suffer for you now. In my body I am completing whatever remains of Christ’s sufferings" (Col. 1:24).

Donavon Riley is a Lutheran pastor, conference speaker, author, Online Content Manager for Higher Things, a contributing writer for 1517, Christ Hold Fast, and LOGIA. He is also the co-host of The Banned Books podcast and the As Lutheran As It Gets podcast.



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