South Africa: A time to overcome.
Romans 12:21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
This scripture contains the fulness of the Christian faith and the grand strategy of God with regards to human evil. Whenever evil is as graphically and violently exposed as it was the past week in South Africa, it will either draw man down or lift Christ up. Fighting back is not the option – we are called to retaliate. The only choice we have as Christians is to choose our weapons wisely. Only the armaments that are found in the armour of Christ will ultimately secure victory.
William Barclay said the following:
“The simple fact is that the world will never have any use for Christianity unless it can prove that it produces the best men and women. The authentic mark of a Christian is a life lived on the standards of Jesus Christ. This (to overcome evil with good) is the function of the Christian life. If he fails in his function, there is no good reason why he should exist at all. We have already seen in the economy of God that uselessness invites disaster. He who has an ear to hear, let him hear.”
I recently read an article by Paul Cruickshank, who is described as CNN’s terrorism analyst. He reported on an attack by two knife-wielding assailants on a church outside Rouen, Normandy, in which the attackers killed an elderly priest by slitting his throat and gravely wounding another bystander. In his analysis, Cruickshank pointed out that the attack is an intentional act of brutality against Christians for a very specific reason. He writes, “The goal in going after such a provocative target? To trigger a backlash against Muslims in France and drive the country’s Muslims into the recruiting arms of the Islamic State.”
You see, the seen and the unseen enemy – the powers that be and the spirit behind the destruction, death, and chaos in South Africa – want peace-loving citizens and peace-confessing Christians to retaliate with the same weapons of destruction: hatred and anger. Once we start thinking about retaliation, once we weaponize our words and contemplate a spirit of revenge, it allows the enemy to execute his plan.
For chaos to prevail it does not need more aggressors but fewer peacemakers. It feeds into the narrative that peace-loving people can be provoked into anger and hatred.
This puts Christians in a difficult spot, because our human nature so often reverts to our default settings of retaliation and fighting back. When we get hit the way we have, we want to hit back harder. Isn’t this the way we can provide security for ourselves and for others?
But, as Christians, we are called to a different response.
- We are called to love our enemies and do good to those who hate us (Matthew 5:44)
- We are called to retaliate by blessing those who curse us and pray for those who abuse us (Luke 6:28)
- We are called to think differently and be transformed by the renewal of our minds (Romans 12:2)
- We are called to repay evil with good (Romans 12:21) and give thought to do what is honourable in the sight of all. (Php 4:8)
- We are called, if possible, so far as it on us, to live peaceably with all. (Hebrews 12:14. Romans 12:18)
- We are called never to avenge ourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God (Romans 12:19)
- We are called, when our enemy is hungry, to feed him; if he is thirsty, to give him something to drink; for by doing so you will heap burning coals on his head.” (Romans 12:20)
The CNN article only makes sense if we fully understand that Satan is ultimately the source that impregnates people with violence, chaos, and hatred. His ultimate goal is not destroying supermarkets but destroying relationships, not orchestrating one incident of violence but an unstoppable cycle of hatred and suspicion – people responding to violence with violence; and hatred with hatred.
But Jesus offers another path. With His cross on His back on His way to Calvary He exemplified that the answer to violence isn’t more violence but rather a repentance that leads to peace with God and translates into a love for souls. The answer to violence is peace. It’s love. It’s prayer. Only this can stop the spiral. Only this disrupts the designs of the hateful. Only this provides a future, security and prosperity.