Do Not Be Overcome By Evil!Fr. Barnabas Powell
Sometimes, I hate Facebook! OK, what I really hate is being misunderstood and then I have to scramble to be understood and end up making things worse! Ugh!
It seems the harder I try the worse it gets. Do you know what I mean? Have you ever, with the best of intentions, tried to make a clear and cogent comment only to have it taken out of context or misunderstood in a way that makes your original thought almost the exact opposite of what you intended. I know, “poor me.” But I do confess to sometimes being blindsided by someone reading what I wrote and getting a meaning that was not intended. No wonder there was once someone who said “the language of heaven is silence.” I’ve rarely gotten in trouble when I kept my mouth shut!
But, I’m a preacher. It’s what I do and, frankly, it’s who I am. So, how am I supposed to live at peace with all?
Look at our lesson today in Romans 12:4-5, 15-21:
BRETHREN, for as in one body we have many members, and all the members do not have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; never be conceited. Repay no one evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends upon you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” No, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals upon his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
St. Paul gives us the principles and insights to living at peace today when he confronts the Roman Christians, a church made up of both Jewish converts to Christianity and Gentile converts as well. This hard lesson of living at peace with all men begins with the theology of the Church!
First, we ARE “members of one another.” This is no mere theory or pious hope. It is a fact. It is the Truth! We are connected whether we realize it or not. And that revelation should cause us to value community and unity. But it is a unity in diversity because while we are all members of one another, we each possess different functions and gifts meant to make me who I really am AND to minister to everyone around me with my unique giftedness. This unity isn’t some Hope for the future as much as it is a reality now that we struggle to both realize and practice! We are one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church!
Next, this unity given to us by God (because He knows Himself as Persons in Communion) is to make us humble and preferential to one another. This unity is meant to teach us that every person we meet has some gift to give us for our benefit. Each person we know, we share a life with, is, in some major way, uniquely gifted to help me become who I am. It’s like my best friend use to say: “No life is a total waste! It can always serve as a bad example!” If I practice this active recognition that each person in my life is there to benefit my own purposeful Orthodox life, then there is no room for conceit or caustic pride.
Finally, knowing all this means I actively abandon the foolish notion of vengeance! And, while abandoning vengeance, I go even further by loving and serving even my enemy! I allow good to overcome evil. Because even my enemies serve my salvation by revealing parts of me that are broken and wounded. These are truths my friends cannot tell me because they love me and only see my “good side.” But my enemies see those things that my friends will never see. And that makes my enemies both valuable and worthy of my gratitude!
Today, do you live at peace with everyone? Yeah, me either. But, at least with our lesson today we can see why this is such a powerful Orthodox lifestyle we should all work to embrace. If we are ever going to be at peace with everyone, it will be by being Orthodox on Purpose!