Overcome Evil with Good & Romans 12:19

This will be another post on the things my husband and I talked about this weekend on our long drives.  Although it’s a not really a “feel good,” romantic post, I thought it was a good spiritual growth topic to cover here.

How do you overcome evil with good, especially when someone has done something truly evil against you or someone you love?

How do you deal with Christians like that – true believers who engage in character defamation, spreading slander about you or your family, or worse, who make false accusations against you or your family members, and then go on to feel zero guilt over it?  So disturbing right?  And rightfully angering.

I’ve learned the hard way that it’s much better to trust that God will be your Defender against such people, that He will help “set the record straight” when the time is right for things to be exposed.  And I do believe things are always eventually exposed.  It may take a long time, but God is a just God, and He brings to light that which people would want to be kept in darkness.  You can be sure He doesn’t let evil doers get away with evil acts.  Even more so His own children (Christians), as the Bible warns He punishes those He loves… because it’s the right thing for Him to do.

It’s good to trust God knows what He’s doing.  I personally find so much peace in resting on that promise.  And if you’re going through persecution for speaking truth, you can also rest on the promise that you are suffering through something that will ultimately be a blessing to you.

 

      11“Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. 

12“Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

To me, this is a beautiful promise… we have hope through persecution, and can trust that God will deal justly with those who do insult us, slander us, and falsely accuse us of all kinds of evil.

It’s God’s job, ultimately, and it’s our job to trust He does right by us.

When we run around and try to “correct” any and every person who is mocking or insulting or even spreading falsehoods about us (which I definitely tried to do in the past… unsuccessfully), we’re more concerned about “people-pleasing,” and protecting our reputation than in trusting God.  I don’t think it’s always wrong to try to confront someone falsely accusing you of something, but in trying to, you take on the risk of being more tempted to sin.  So in my opinion it’s best to stand back and allow God to deal with ALL of it, I’ve found it’s much easier to have peace that way – which is what He would want. 

I have found I am able to trust that not only will He provide protection (and He has, God is so faithful!), but He also gives us the promise that He repays and takes vengeance for us.  As unChristian as that sounds, it’s right there in the Bible for a reason (probably to scare people away from doing evil):

“Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place to wrath: for it is written,

‘Vengeance is Mine; I will repay,’

said the Lord.”

Romans 12:19

Some commentary from Barne’s Notes on this passage and verse:

“For it is written – Deuteronomy 32:35.

Vengeance is mine – That is, it belongs to me (God) to inflict revenge. This expression implies that it is “improper” for people to interfere with that which properly belongs to God. When we are angry, and attempt to avenge ourselves, we should remember, therefore, that we are infringing on the prerogatives of the Almighty.

I will repay … – This is said in substance, though not in so many words, in Deuteronomy 32:35-36. Its design is to assure us that those who deserve to be punished, shall be; and that, therefore, the business of revenge may be safely left in the hands of God. Though “we” should not do it, yet if it ought to be done, it will be done. This assurance will sustain us, not in the “desire” that our enemy shall be punished, but in the belief that “God” will take the matter into his own hands; that he can administer it better than we can; and that if our enemy “ought” to be punished, he will be. “We,” therefore, should leave it all with God. That God will vindicate his people, is clearly and abundantly proved in 2 Thessalonians 1:6-10Revelation 6:9-11Deuteronomy 32:40-43.

The part that my husband assured me of this weekend was so comforting to know.  That if someone does need to be punished, God will do it in His own time (or maybe He already has and you just didn’t witness it).  We don’t need to worry about infecting our souls with the poison of bitterness or hatred – although is it ever tempting to feel those feelings when you see someone get away with evil against someone you love!
My husband said that when someone gives in with actions to those toxic emotions and desiring revenge on their enemies, it affects them and makes them stoop to the same level – even disqualifying their witness.  It’s ok to desire justice, even through a legal system if need be, but it’s not good to take pleasure in seeing someone suffer more than they deserve.  Which is why it’s best to leave vengeance up to God – only He can truly understand “how much” punishment is deserved for someone who has wronged you.  There’s no way we could make that call, although I think it’s totally human (and biblical – think David in Psalm 109 where he asks for God to destroy his enemies in the cruelest of ways possible) to have those feelings.

My husband had me read some verses this weekend along these lines while in the car, and it was so good to hear his opinion on my questions.

One of the passages was David asking God to make his enemies ashamed and disgraced for what they’d done to him.  It’s so comforting to know how human King David was 🙂  I totally relate to his passage of desiring to see enemies be disgraced and ashamed of their actions.  It’s nice to know that he felt those feelings toward his enemies, and yet He was called a man after God’s own heart.  God doesn’t seem to hold our humanity against us regarding our strong emotions, ❤ but He loves us too much to let us stay in those emotions to the point where they would destroy us (and others).

Which brings me to the second passage my husband had me read with him 🙂 which was Jesus’ thoughts on loving our enemies:

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor(fellow man) and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, [n]love [that is, unselfishly seek the best or higher good for] your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may [show yourselves to] be the children of your Father who is in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on those who are evil and on those who are good, and makes the rain fall on the righteous [those who are morally upright] and the unrighteous [the unrepentant, those who oppose Him]. 46 For if you love[only] those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do that? 47 And if you greet only your brothers [wishing them God’s blessing and peace], what more [than others] are you doing? Do not even the Gentiles [who do not know the Lord] do that?48 You, therefore, will be perfect [growing into spiritual maturity both in mind and character, actively integrating godly values into your daily life], as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

I seriously laughed at how these two passages seem so at odds with each other… and told my husband outright that I much preferred David’s response! 😀  I knew of both of them, but it’s always wonderful to hear my husband explain these things and talk it over him candidly. ❤

They do seem at odds… one calling for your enemies to be ashamed and disgraced for how they’ve treated you, and the next claiming that if you don’t also love them, you haven’t achieved spiritual maturity.  In reality, the second passage also lines up with overcoming evil with good in Romans 12:14-21.

14 Bless those who persecute you [who cause you harm or hardship]; bless and do not curse [them]. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice [sharing others’ joy], and weep with those who weep [sharing others’ grief]. 16 Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty [conceited, self-important, exclusive], but associate with humble people [those with a realistic self-view]. Do not overestimate yourself. 17 Never repay anyone evil for evil. Take thought for what is right and gracious and proper in the sight of everyone. 18 If possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave the way open for God’s wrath [and His judicial righteousness]; for it is written [in Scripture], “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.20 But if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for by doing this you will heap [e]burning coals on his head.”21 Do not be overcome and conquered by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

It ALL makes sense when you view it through trusting God to be the ultimate Judge and Avenger of wrongs.

We are supposed to be able to overcome someone’s evil toward us that may have truly harmed us by not allowing their actions to destroy our peace and love in our own lives.  The only way to do that is to be able to FULLY rely on God that He will repay, that we can be kind to them (which heaps burning coals on their head), and understand they are in God’s hands and that we don’t have to concern ourselves with their punishment.

He is just, and like He said… He will repay.

Stephanie

 

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Abigail – The Scandalous Wife?

This study of David, Nabal, and Abigail has been truly enlightening for me.  Having studied it a few times before, I thought I had a decent grasp on the story, but it’s been particularly interesting looking into the hearts of David and Nabal, where they were at emotionally and spiritually in the way they spoke to each other, and the ramifications of giving in to folly that this lesson teaches us.

And now we will look at the second part of the story, the part where Abigail steps in, and in her wisdom and insight, giving the longest speech by a woman ever recorded in the Bible, is able to help both of these men from the fates of foolishness. 1 Samuel 25:12

***

Davids men retraced their steps.  When they returned to him, they reported all these words.  He said to his men, “All of you, put on your swords!”

So David and all his men put on their swords.  About 400 men followed David while 200 stayed with the supplies.

One of Nabal’s young men informed Abigail, Nabal’s wife:

“Look, David sent messengers from the wilderness to greet our master, but he yelled at them.  The men treated us well. When we were in the field, we weren’t harassed and nothing of ours was missing the whole time we were living among them.  They were a wall around us, both day and night, the entire time we were herding the sheep.

Now consider carefully what you must do, because there is certain to be trouble for our master and his entire family.  He is such a worthless fool nobody can talk to him!”

Abigail hurried, taking 200 loaves of bread, two skins of wine, five butchered sheep, a bushel of roasted grain, 100 clusters of raisins, and 200 cakes of pressed figs, and loaded them on donkeys.  Then she said to her male servants,

“Go ahead of me. I will be right behind you.”  But she did not tell her husband Nabal.

As she rode the donkey down a mountain pass hidden from view, she saw David and his men coming toward her and met them.  David had just said,

I guarded everything that belonged to this man in the wilderness for nothing.  He was not missing anything, yet he paid me back evil for good.  May God punish me, and even more if I let any of his men survive until morning.”

When Abigail saw David, she quickly got off the donkey and fell with her face to the ground in front of David.  She fell at his feet and said,

The guilt is mine, my lord, but please let your servant speak to you directly.  Listen to the words of your servant.  My lord should pay no attention to this worthless man Nabal, for he lives up to his name.  His name is Nabal, and stupidity is all he knows.  I, your servant, didn’t see my lord’s young men whom you sent.  Now my lord, as surely as the Lord lives, it is the Lord who kept you from participating in bloodshed and avenging yourself by your own hand.  May your enemies and those who want trouble for my lord be like Nabal.  Accept this gift your servant has brought to my lord, and let it be given to the young men who follow my lord.  Please forgive your servant’s offense, for the Lord is certain to make a lasting dynasty for my lord because he fights the Lord’s battles.  Throughout your life, may evil not be found in you.

When someone pursues you and attempts to take your life, my lord’s life will be tucked safely in the place where the Lord your God protects the living. However, He will fling away your enemies’ lives like stones from a sling.  When the Lord does for my lord all the good He promised and appoints you ruler over Israel, there will not be remorse or a troubled conscience for my lord because of needless bloodshed or my lord’s revenge.  And when the Lord does good things for my lord, may you remember me your servant.”

 

I don’t know about you, but when I read Abigail’s reply, I’m shocked and in awe of the enormous amount of humility and grace this woman shows when the natural response would be quite the opposite.  One might expect her to have gone to her husband in a mix of anger and panic, and rant and rave about his actions causing them all certain death.

But Abigail calmly and quietly prepares a great offering of foods as a generous gift to David and his men.  Although the situation is a dire crisis, she keeps her head and her cool, and boldly goes to meet David herself, confident in her intentions and his own goodness.

Abigail comes to David in humility and covers over her husband’s offense, even taking account for it – saying the guilt is hers!  Although I’ve seen her story used deceptively as a way to teach women that they can disrespect and dishonor their husbands if they believe they are acting foolishly, Abigail clearly honors and protects Nabal by covering his sin.

She also calms David’s anger by acknowledging his grievance against Nabal’s mistreatment of him – she acknowledges the fact that her husband is a fool, that his name even means “fool.”  This is not the same offense that is spoken of in Matthew 5:22

“But I say to you that everyone who continues to be angry with his brother or harbors malice against him shall be guilty before the court; and whoever speaks [contemptuously and insultingly] to his brother, Raca (You empty-headed idiot)!’ shall be guilty before the supreme court (Sanhedrin); and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of the fiery hell.”

-Jesus

***

When Abigail refers to Nabal as being foolish (or acting in stupidity), it is not the same as her going to Nabal, and actually telling him “You were a FOOL to treat David that way!”  That particular response WOULD be disrespecting her husband and dishonoring him – speaking to him in a way that God would not be ok with.  Abigail explaining to David, in order to help him avoid reacting in equal folly as her own husband, that Nabal is “just a fool, not worthy of even paying attention to,” is morally right and beneficial in the situation, even honoring her husband in the way that she is preventing innocent blood to be on his hands because of his foolishness.  Matthew 5:22, however, is different from what Abigail did, calling someone something that condemning – telling it to them in a mean-spirited way, is akin to cursing them, something which was taken much more seriously in biblical culture, and something God clearly hates.  In Hebrew culture, if you cursed someone, and it was clear they didn’t deserve your curse, the words and meanings you spoke over their head would fall back onto yours.  Cursing another person was a serious, big deal, which is why Jesus Himself declared that if you called a person a fool, you’d be in danger of going to hell, and it should be noted that Abigail did not directly curse her husband in this way.  She instead used the fact of how he was conducting himself in order to prevent rash and unnecessary violence, and to prevent a good, righteous man from committing great sin.

***

Oh to Have an Abigail When We Need One…

I can’t describe how much I would have longed to know and talk to Abigail, and I can’t wait until we get to Heaven so that I can meet her and get to know her soul.  How many times have you wished you had an Abigail to prevent you from reacting in anger or harshness in response to something that ultimately didn’t matter?  I know I’ve had many times where I could have used an Abigail, a person to remind me of God’s plan for my life – of my goodness and desire to be righteous, of my need to act how God would want me to, especially in times of anger.  This is one of the main reasons I believe we as Christians need godly mentors, and as wives, to trust and go to our husbands for their counsel and wisdom.

If you are married to a man (or wife) like Nabal, my heart breaks for you!  I cannot even imagine the pain and sadness you would endure over the years in being linked to a person with that degree of foolishness that they actually endanger your family through sabotaging their career, or endangering their life through their careless words and wickedness.  I’m blessed and humbled to have a wise and incredible man, he has been a wonderful help to me in shielding me from the words of people like Nabal, but he’s also counseled me in how to acknowledge a person’s foolishness so that I know what I’m dealing with, and be confident in disregarding whatever they say, knowing that this pleases God.

Abigail teaches us how to respond in grace and humility to the provocations of a foolish or wicked person.

Notice how she came to David to help him calm down in his anger:

  • First, her non-verbal display of showing him submission and honor, falling down before him – easing the hurt pride her husband’s careless words had caused David.  Our non-verbal responses are so important because if they don’t add up with what we are saying, they betray our message.  Her genuine care for David is shown more through non-verbal actions than even her words.  Her husband mocked who he was, degraded his reputation, and belittled his future anointing as King, but Abigail, in even just her non-verbal actions, undoes all those messages, and reaffirms her belief that David in good, honorable, and righteous.
  • She humbles herself, and takes the guilt of her husband onto herself.  A natural response for a wife in this situation would be to say that it’s her husband’s fault, and that she was innocent, but Abigail does the opposite!  She doesn’t blame her husband, but actually asks David to forgive her for his offense.  This honors her husband and also diffuses David’s anger, telling him to direct it at her instead.  It reminded me of an old story of a child, in their ignorance, doing something disrespectful in front of a king, and deserving death for the ignorant act.  The father runs up to the king, and covers his child both physically and emotionally, telling the king to put the blame on him, to punish him instead.  The father covers for the sin of the child, indeed, taking the sin upon himself because of his great love and devotion – because he didn’t want to see his child perish.  The king, affected by the display of love and affection by the father for his foolish child, pardons both and enjoys giving them forgiveness.
  • She tells him not to pay any attention to Nabal.  This is a very fundamental truth in understanding how to deal with a Proverbial Fool.  It’s not wise to take their words to heart, because they are only meant to insult or provoke, are meaningless, and provide no actual wisdom or insight.  The Fool is not seeking understanding, thus giving them the benefit of the doubt, trying to reason with them or even rebuking them only invites harm on oneself.  Even Biblically, you don’t respond unless it’s absolutely necessary.  You don’t pay them any attention, because they are not worth your time. You don’t give them any words of wisdom because they will only trample on them like pigs would on precious pearls.  When David found himself ruminating over Nabal’s wicked words mocking and insulting him, Abigail brought to light that Nabal’s words mattered very little in the course of David’s life and future.  He would likely never see Nabal again, Nabal’s acceptance or rejection of David didn’t matter.  In other words, when dealing with a Proverbial Fool, you don’t worry about whether or not they like you – you only care about what God thinks of you and if what you are doing glorifies and honors Him.
  • She reminds him that God wants more for him and from him.  Her reply is akin to her telling him in our modern language, “You’re better than that.”  She reminds him not to avenge Himself, but to leave room for God to, something that is repeated in Romans 12 in response to how we should treat our enemies – by not repaying evil for evil, but by “overcoming evil with good.”
  •  She offers him and his men a generous, tangible gift to nourish their hunger, something to remind them of God’s goodness and generosity.  There is just something very powerful about giving a good or well-timed gift, especially in a tense situation that can calm strife or anger, and bring people together.  But it’s worth noting that she doesn’t just come empty-handed, pleading for their lives, but comes bearing baskets of food overflowing from their celebration to comfort and still them – it could definitely be called a “peace offering.”
  • She verbally speaks blessings of affirmation over David, “for the Lord is certain to make a lasting dynasty for my lord because he fights the Lord’s battles.  Throughout your life, may evil not be found in you.”  She speaks confidently of God fulfilling His known promises to David, and assures him of the joy set before him.  This is just such a beautiful gift to a person in David’s situation – someone insulted, mocked, and ridiculed, denied what they arguably should have because of how they’ve acted in integrity.  He was condemned when he had done nothing wrong, was repaid evil for his goodness, something only a wicked person would do, but Abigail takes his mind off of his anger and pain, and assures him that he is doing right, that God is going to bless him immensely, and that his work and success (something that Nabal completely disregarded as worthless) was godly and would be rewarded.
  • She shows compassion and care for David’s personal and spiritual well-being – outright telling him that she doesn’t want him to have the weight of a guilty conscience because he acted rashly – or have the blood of innocents on his hand for having avenged himself.
  • She assures him that God is the ultimate avenger, and that God will deal with David’s enemies, even with Nabal. God is a righteous and just God, and He knows and weighs the motivations in people’s hearts.

 

Abigail protected and honored Nabal even though he was wicked and enjoyed dealing with others in an evil manner.  I think it’s safe to say that Nabal was probably not a man of God, but since the Bible doesn’t say either way, it is possible that he actually was a man who believed he knew God.  Obviously, even if a person believes they are a Christian, if they are continually acting sinfully and in an evil manner towards others, they have a Satanic stronghold in their life, and are not allowing the Holy Spirit to convict them so that they treat others appropriately.

I encourage you to read the end of the story if you aren’t already familiar with it.  David is blessed by Abigail’s appeal, and thanks her and blesses her in return for her discernment.  She returns home to find Nabal feasting, drinking, and celebrating, completely unaware of the terror that could have happened to him.  She waits until he’s sober the next morning to tell him what David was planning to do, and what she did to avoid their deaths.  Nabal has something like a heart attack that leaves him in a coma for 10 days, before the Lord strikes him dead.

When David finds out about Nabal’s death, he says,

“Praise the Lord who championed my cause against Nabal’s insults and restrained His servant from doing evil.  The Lord brought Nabal’s evil deeds back on his own head.”

David then sent for Abigail to become his wife.  And she accepted in grace and humility.

Death & Judgment

I am a nerd… a geek… hopefully not completely a “dork” – call it what you will, but I truly do embrace my inner geek-goddess.  I completely mesh with my husband concerning a variety of books and movies, even tv-series.  Whatever it is that leads me to adore Harry Potter (if you didn’t read the books – yes, all of them – you’re sorely missing out!), Star Wars, and Lord of the Rings, I’m thankful to be born like this. 

Growing up, my brother and I would have episodes of these movie marathons, usually Star Wars or Lord of the Rings.  We would watch them for days, relishing each part, repeating epic lines!  Geek goddess?  You have no idea….

I love the deep lessons hidden in these works of art, all kinds of life lessons, if you’re attune to them.  One of my hands down favorite lines is from Lord of the Rings when Gandalf is explaining to Frodo how to accept crisis – how to deal with things that happen in life that are devastating & unwanted.  He also explains possibly one of the greatest pieces of advice I’ve ever heard on why we shouldn’t judge others. 

Frodo: It’s pity Bilbo didn’t kill him when he had a chance!
Gandalf:  Pity? It was pity that stayed Bilbo’s hand. Many that live deserve death. And some that died deserve life. Can you give it to them Frodo? Do not be too eager to deal out death in judgment. Even the very wise cannot see all ends. My heart tells me that Gollum has some part to play yet, for good or ill, before this is over. The pity of Bilbo may rule the fate of many.”

Frodo: I wish the ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened.
Gandalf: So do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us. There are other forces at work in this world Frodo, besides the will of evil. Bilbo was meant to find the Ring. In which case, you were also meant to have it. And that is an encouraging thought.