Saint Paul tells Jesus’ church in Rome to love their enemies and to not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good. Despite popular belief, Paul was not writing from a position of power or popularity. The Bible was not written by a majority race or culture. The New Testament was not written by people living on top of the food chain. Their savior was a Jew, a minority in the vast and powerful Roman Empire. Yet, He was the victim of His own people as they nailed Him to the cross. Even more so, Jesus was the ultimate minority as a doer of good in a human population united in evil! Alone on the cross, the only righteous One died for the majority – humanity!
Paul tells his friends in Rome to love their enemy as one who knew what it was liked to be the oppressor and the oppressed. He persecuted the minority church after all. But He also experienced the disenfranchised minority as he suffered beatings from the establishment – the Synagogue and Judaism.
He is not telling nice white people in the suburbs to love the minorities invading their peaceful cul-de-sac. He is telling an unknown minority religion that had been persecuted by Jews and soon would be outcast and beaten by Rome when Nero uses them as a scapegoat for his failed economic policies!
When Jesus said, “Love your enemies,” He knew what it was like to have real enemies who wanted Him dead. When Paul said, “Love your enemies,” he knew what it was like to be the enemy and to be hunted down by enemies.
So, when we think we are being overcome by evil and no one has ever lived in a time like this, we need to check ourselves. When we think Jesus’ words are meant for more normal times (like, you know, WW2, the Reformation, Dark Ages, Spanish Inquisition, Japanese invasion of China, Slavery), they are not. Jesus tells His people to love their enemies as one who knows full well what it is like to live in crazy times and with crazy people!
Failing to love our oppressor is usually preceded by failing to realize we are guilty of being an oppressor as well! A quick cursory review of history shows us that every single nation under earth is guilty of being the oppressor as well as the oppressed. Whether as a culture or as an individual, we are all like Paul: Guilty. When we forget that, we get a pompous attitude where everyone is guilty instead of us. That is when we are overcome by evil. We seethe in self righteous indignation! We pick up our pen, our keyboard, our weapon, and, out of total chaotic emotion, avenge.
Thank God Jesus did not let evil conquer Him. Though He let evil overcome Him, He did not do it out of vengeance but received our evil to save us. He overcame evil with good, even the good of laying own His life for us!
Paul tells us to overcome evil with good because we can! We do not need to have vengeance. We do not need to get down in the mud. Our life does not depend on justice in this world, winning an argument, or defeating our political foes. We have everything in Christ. We can lose the world and still gain the universe.
Give it a shot. Do not be afraid. Christ catches you if you fall!