Monday, June 30, 2014

GOOD FOR EVIL (Romans Chapter 12)

Romans 12:21, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

“The whole world lies in the power of the evil one” (1 John 5:19).  And sinful man is “filled with all manner of…evil” (Romans 1:29).  It is only by God’s intervention in our lives that any of us can be or behave otherwise (Cf. Mark 10:18; Romans 3:12; Galatians 5:22; Romans 15:14; 3 John 11).  It should not surprise us when our lives are confronted by evil from time to time. 

The immediate context of Romans 12:21 has to do with the response of the believer to personal injuries suffered at the hands of others.  It is never permissible to take one’s own revenge (Cf. Romans 12:19).  The believer, in following in Jesus’ steps, is to respond in an altogether different, godly, manner.  It matters not the degree or consequence of the injustice, by the Spirit he is instructed and empowered to follow Christ’s example (Cf. 1 Peter 2:21-25, 3:9; Galatians 5:22).  Others might seek vengeance is such situations, to respond in kind to an injury (i.e. hate for hate, anger for anger, violence for violence, etc.), but the believer in Christ is commanded to “overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21).  Charles Spurgeon commented on this, “Good is the only weapon which in this dread conflict we are permitted to use, and we may rest assured it will be sufficient and effectual. To use any other weapon is not only unlawful but altogether impossible, for he who wields the sword of evil is no longer Christ’s soldier at all.  The reference in the text is to personal injuries…though the principle is capable of very great extension. In fighting with sin and error our weapons must be holiness and truth, and these alone.”

Mitsuo Fuchida was the lead pilot in the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor.  He later trusted in Christ for salvation.  A part of what God used to reach him was the experience of a fellow airman that was related to him after the war.  That man, Kazuo Kanegaski, survived the sinking of the carrier Hiryu only to be rescued by the Americans.  He was sent to a prison camp/hospital near the Utah-Colorado border. 

Kazuo spoke of his experience in that camp, “Something happened at my camp which made it possible for all of us interned there to stop nursing our resentment and to return to Japan with lightened hearts…Shortly after the end of the war, an American girl about 18 years old came to the camp as a volunteer social worker. She ministered to the Japanese with tireless energy and kindness. Her name was Margaret Covell. The men called her Peggy, as did her American friends. She spoke no Japanese, but the prisoners had picked up enough English to communicate with her. ‘If you’re uncomfortable or need anything, let me know,’ she would say. ‘I’ll do anything I can to help.’ With her conscientious care she touched the prisoners. She also puzzled them. Some three weeks after her first visit, one of the men asked her curiously, ‘Why are you so kind to us?’ ‘Because Japanese soldiers killed my parents,’ she answered.”

As the prisoners stared at her in astonishment, she explained that her parents were missionaries who had fled Japan to Manila where they thought they would be safe. When the Japanese captured the city they fled to the mountains. Japanese soldiers ultimately found Peggy’s parents and in their possession a small portable radio they mistook for a secret communications apparatus. They tried the couple as spies and convicted them. They were blindfolded, their hands bound behind their backs, and forced to their knees. As the husband and wife prayed—asking God to forgive their executioners--the Japanese soldiers beheaded them.

“Peggy, who had been living in the United States, didn’t learn of her parents’ fate until the end of the war. At first she choked with hatred for the Japanese. Then she began to meditate on her parents’ selfless service to them. Slowly she became convinced that her parents had indeed forgiven their executioners before death. Could she do less? So she volunteered to work with Japanese prisoners of war. Her example of charity and gentleness greatly impressed the men, and they loved her with a pure tenderness.”  Peggy could have chosen a different route.  Others would have considered it both natural and acceptable for her to seethe in bitterness and nurture thoughts of revenge. Instead, looking to Christ’s example, and led by the Spirit, she took the higher route.  Her other-worldly response corresponded to the example of Christ who Himself had overcome evil with good in His death on the cross. Mitsuo Fuchida’s experience and quotes from excerpts from the book, “God’s Samurai: Lead Pilot at Pearl Harbor;” Katherine V. Dillon; Potomac Books Inc.; 2003.

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