“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:21)
There is something within our nature that tempts us to retaliate whenever someone does something against us. Perhaps part of this is due to a natural instinct to protect ourselves. Perhaps another reason might be our need for justice.
A need for justice is a part of God’s nature that has been placed within us. Scripture teaches us that we were created in the image of God and therefore, because God is a God of justice, there is a need for justice in each of us as well. “For I, the LORD, love justice…” (Isaiah 61:8) “For all His ways are just; A God of faithfulness and without injustice, Righteous and upright is He.” (Deuteronomy 32:4) Because the Creator desires justice, it is only natural that His creation would as well.
Knowing that God is a God of justice, we have to wonder why He didn’t destroy mankind the moment we sinned. The world-wide flood of Noah, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, and even the 70 years of captivity for Israel are all evidences of God’s need for justice.
Yet in the midst of all of these catastrophic events we see another part of God’s nature that almost seems contradictory. Instead of slaying Adam and Eve, God slew an innocent animal and clothed them in its skin. While raining down fire and brimstone upon Sodom and Gomorrah, God rescued Lot. Even while His prophets were warning the people of Israel about the coming judgment, God was also telling them of a time when they would return to their land and be blessed. In the midst of God’s demand for justice, there was also a demonstration of His mercy.
A need for justice is a part of our new nature through Christ, and also is a desire to show mercy. The Apostle Paul wrote –
“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my 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 12:14; 17-21)
Only God is capable of knowing the proper balance between justice and mercy. Only God knows all the details and therefore only God knows what is right. Therefore, because we do not know all the details, we should leave judgment up to Him. Instead of being overcome by men’s evil, we should seek to overcome their evil by our good.