Saint Paul wrote to the Romans, “never pay back evil with evil… never try to get revenge… do not be mastered by evil, but master evil with good.” These words of Scripture are challenging to hear these days as we process the horrendous event which occurred in Las Vegas last October 1st. Meditating on this passage, the Dutch spiritual writer Father Henri Nouwen once stated that “these words cut to the heart of the spiritual life. They make it clear what it means to choose life, not death, to choose blessings not curses. But what is asked of us here goes against the grain of our human nature.”
Our exposure to such expressions of evil leaves the soul dumbfounded. An event like the massacre in Las Vegas becomes a visual and visceral manifestation of evil, though we face the presence of evil and its consequences in many other situations such as natural disasters, illness, broken relationships, addictions, vice, sin and ultimately death. Turning the other cheek when confronting such evil does not seem appropriate, on the contrary, a response is necessary. Doing nothing is not an option. Saint Paul gives us a clear direction, “master evil with good.”
Jesus Christ has vanquished the power of evil, yet the battle continues to rage. Every Christian must face evil with great confidence, knowing that despite the present struggle, Jesus Christ has already won the victory. The experience of evil can easily discourage anyone, yet Jesus tells us in the Gospel of John 16:33, “take courage, I have conquered the world.” We should not ignore evil nor approach it with a naïve optimism that things will get better soon. As Christians we face evil with confidence knowing that because Christ lives, we can face tomorrow regardless of the trials and toils it may bring. Christ takes away the discouragement and bitterness that evil brings by showering us with mercy and hope.
Jesus defeated evil by taking up the cross, not by taking up the sword. His death on a cross was embraced without a curse, and his horrific death was transformed into life and blessing. Henri Nouwen ended his meditation on the Letter to the Romans asserting that the only way Saint Paul’s instruction is possible to follow is by “knowing with our whole beings that what we are asked to do for others is what God has done for us.” As God battled evil in the world with the goodness of His Son, so too, we fight evil in the world with the goodness of Jesus Christ.
Picture is mine, all rights reserved, 2012