Life in Focus

Where following Jesus and Every Day Life Intersect

Responding to Evil and Violence

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Driving on a recent road trip, I couldn’t help noticing the many flags flying at half-mast in different towns we passed along the way. In the past few months it’s been hard to keep track of the numerous tragedies that have occurred in our nation and world. The senseless acts of violence and terrorism we’ve seen in places like Orlando, Dallas, Nice and Berlin have left us shocked and saddened. I can hardly fathom one awful situation before another is reported.

Processing these events can be overwhelming. Sometimes I want to turn off the news or walk away from the article I’m reading. When we haven’t been personally affected, it’s tempting not to think about the latest set of ugly circumstances, isn’t it? Sometimes our emotions become dulled from overexposure. It becomes too draining to keep hearing about another random shooting or terrorist attack. We can feel helpless and hopeless.   Seemingly, there is little we can we do. How can we change things in a world that seems increasingly violent and hateful with each passing month?

Wanting to answer this question for myself, I turned to the best source of wisdom I know: the Bible. As usual, the answers I found were clear, but not easy. Here are a few things we can do in the face of evil and violence:

Pray for Our Enemies

Jesus’ teaching on this topic isn’t easy to practice, but it is truth we need to apply to our lives: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Matthew 5:43-45, NIV)

When tragedies occur, we’re often prompted to pray for the victims and their families. What doesn’t come naturally is praying for the people who caused them. What would happen if instead of hating the evildoers and wanting vengeance, we prayed for God’s sovereignty and justice to prevail? How about praying that our enemies would be confronted with God’s power and authority and would have no choice but to submit to him? Or praying for their hearts to be softened and their souls to be saved? How about asking God to root the evil out of them and to replace it with his grace and love instead?

Repay Evil with Good

Our natural tendency when we’ve been wronged is to want to retaliate against the one who has hurt us. Yet Scripture urges us to resist this inclination and to surprise our enemies with kindness they don’t deserve:

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord. On the contrary: ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:17-21, NIV)

A commentary I consulted explains, “By feeding [our enemies] and giving them water to drink, believers heap up burning embers on their heads. This figure seems to mean that the enemy will blush with shame or remorse at such unexpected kindness.” (Wycliffe Bible Commentary, page 1220)

We can’t always do this with perpetrators of evil and violence in the wider world, but we can practice it on a smaller scale in our personal lives. When someone wrongs you, try responding with an act of kindness and see what happens. (If the Bible says it’s a good idea, it’s probably worth trying).

Take Personal Responsibility to Promote Good

 Followers of Jesus are called to live in a way that honors God and blesses others. Our behaviors and attitudes impact our spheres of influence for better or for worse. The interactions we have with others can make them feel bitter and hateful or loved and valued. Let’s commit to being people who make our little corners of the world positive and encouraging. Here are a few ways we can do that:

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:29-32, NIV)

Put simply, biting sarcasm, cynicism, bitterness and gossip do not bring peace into our surroundings. We impact the world around us by what we say and how we treat others. Think about how your actions and attitudes make others feel. Pray and ask God to remove the hurtful ones and to replace them with qualities that build others up. Pray that he increases the positive things you are already doing and saying.

Let’s strive to show a world bent on violence, hate and revenge that doing things God’s way is a better option. The darker the world becomes, the more opportunity we have to let the light of Christ’s love shine through us.

Christy Nockels’ song “By Our Love” urges believers to show the world God’s love. Click on the link and let the words inspire you today.

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Author: mmccullum

Marybeth McCullum enjoys writing and blogging about her Christian faith and how it intersects with everyday life. Her goal in every post is to encourage, challenge and inspire her readers. She is in her 10th year at CPC's Focused Living Women's Bible study and currently serves as Coordinator. She also writes a regular blog and speaks occasionally. You can find her page on Facebook at: Marybeth Mc Cullum- Author. Learn more about her other endeavors at marybethmccullum.com.

7 thoughts on “Responding to Evil and Violence

  1. Spot on reminders of who we need to be. I’ve been reading the Psalms this summer and have had a little different enlightenment on praying for those who do evil. The Psalms are pretty violent in the prayers to God for him “to smite” the evil and wicked. I’ve experimented with praying that God would thwart the plans of the wicked, that they would not be able to accomplish their outcomes, etc. Rather different than praying FOR them but in the midst of all this tragedy I’ve read how David prayed to God to intercept those who were evil.

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  2. Thanks Mary Beth! I am bringing a copy of this to our small group meeting tonight. This will spark discussion and prayer!

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  3. Along with Karen, I too pray that the plans of people who would do harm will be thwarted – that’s a great prayer for every morning. And I also agree that praying for them, thought hard, is what Jesus taught us to do. Looking at ways we can deal with the small transgressions in our lives is huge. This morning I could have done that myself when someone left a note on my car calling me an ass*&^% for the way I parked (don’t blame the messenger – long story). Anyway, I was astounded at how much bitterness and anger people harbor. How sad. I did pray for peace and received it, but stopped short of praying for the guy (you can tell by the handwriting) who left it…now thanks to your post, I will do what I should have done in the first place…but it is so much easier to be self righteous, right?:)

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    • Great real life experience where our inclination is to take the low road, but instead Jesus does call us to the higher road of prayer for them. Sigh…..

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    • Thanks for sharing this real life example! I’ve learned so much about not making assumptions and giving people grace. So often people behave poorly because of some difficult circumstance in their lives we may know nothing about. It’s so easy to take things at face value and get offended. A person getting that angry about a bad parking job clearly needs prayer- although our first inclination is simply to think, what a jerk! I love that this blog is stirring up readers the same way the topic stirred me up when I started reading about it. It’s so hard to apply these concepts, but so good too. We can’t solve all the world’s problems, but we can do our part to bring peace to the situations we’re involved in and to pray for the bigger ones that seem so beyond us. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, as always.

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  4. What an amazing and timely reminder of the greatest grace and love in all the world–that of our Lord Jesus Christ. Thanks for the practical pointers and the reminders from God’s own words. With all this violence, all this talk of right and wrong and political agendas we lose sight of a great gift we have because of Chris’s love for us–compassion. It is a lost practice today. Thanks again for the reminder.

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