Overcome Evil with Good
A Roman soldier had to defend against any number of weapons coming at him from the enemy—including javelins, spears, swords, daggers, arrows, and even rocks launched in slings. It was certain death if any of these objects struck his heart. For this reason, a soldier who stepped onto the battlefield always wore the proper protection for his heart. In the same way, Paul states when you step onto the battlefield against your enemy, you also have to have the proper heart protection in place: “the breastplate of righteousness” (Ephesians 6:14 NKJV).
By using this term, Paul is stating that, spiritually, it is righteousness that protects your heart. Righteousness, he infers, acts as a “breastplate” to protect the figurative, spiritual heart of the Christian—the spiritual center of your life. It is by appropriating the righteousness of Jesus Christ—His moral perfection and sinless life of obedience to the Father—and living righteously that you are able to overcome the evil that is within you and the evil that is around you.
Jesus said that evil resides within each of us (see Mark 7:21–23 NKJV). You, along with every other member of the human race, have the seeds of evil growing within you. You can’t overcome this evil, but Christ can. Jesus, in His mercy, overcame this evil through His death and resurrection, and He now offers His righteousness to you as a gift you can receive by faith. You put this righteousness of Christ into practice by living as closely to God’s Word, and as closely to Jesus’ example, as you are able. If you live in this way, your heart will be filled with the inexpressible wonder of Christ’s love for you. That is the kind of heart that can overcome evil.
To overcome the evil that comes from within, you first need to allow Christ to remove the notion of revenge from your heart. You need to trust that God will vindicate you in due time (see Romans 12:17–21). When you attempt to take vengeance on another, you are actually usurping that role from God. The Lord says vengeance is His, and you have no right or authority to take on a role He reserves for Himself (see Leviticus 19:18).
Next, you plan ahead to do what is right in the sight of all people. You pray and strategize ways to overcome the evil that will inevitably come your way. When it comes to confronting evil, many Christians are reactive, but Paul calls on you to be proactive. He encourages you to daily put on the armor of God so you can stand against evil and do “the next right thing.” You trust God that doing one right thing—one good thing after another—will overcome any wrong thing, any evil thing, that comes in your path.
Another means to overcome evil is to promote peace to the best of your ability and without betraying the will of God (see Romans 12:18). Responding to one evil act with another merely escalates the evil. But when someone strikes out at you and you refuse to curse it, rehearse it, or nurse it, you find that you are able to reverse it. To repay evil for evil is to become like Satan. But to truly love your enemy and repay good for evil is to become like God.
You will never stop encountering evil in the world around you, and you will never (this side of heaven) be completely free from the temptation to do evil yourself. But you can know there is a power in the world strong enough to overcome the evil both within you and from without—and that is the goodness of God. Righteousness is what the goodness of God looks like when lived out.
How has Jesus protected your heart from evil?
What does Jesus’ righteousness look like in your life? Who closest to you needs to see this?
What specific evil do you encounter that needs to be overcome through God’s power?