In our last session I asked you to visualize three people or institutions that you could not stand. People who caused you anger, hurt, frustration. People you had a hard time forgiving (even people who were not accessible, i.e. dead, far away, etc.). Most of you listed the things or reasons why you could not stand these people and matched these to the numbers that represented their names. You also sat in groups sharing the various problems or issues that you had with these individuals.
In this session I want you again to visualize these people (especially your biggie) and once you have done that I want you to understand that these people are not the problem. Your enemy, or that person you cannot stand, is not the problem nor are your feelings the problem either. The core problem is explained by Paul in Ephesians 6:12.
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.
The problem we have is with the evil displayed in others, not necessarily the person themselves. Satan uses the evil in the world, the evil in other people's lives to attack us, to discourage us and to separate us from other people and keep us that way. So our problem, the thing we cannot stand is usually not the person, but the evil that the person does, especially as it affects us. Since the Bible says that, "all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23), the potential for us to be annoyed, offended or hurt by others is rather great. And the chance that we also do this to others is just as great.
The question, therefore, is the following, "What do we do about the evil in other people that makes us hate them?" If our focus changes from the person to the evil that the person does, then we have taken a good first step. Our next challenge is what to do about this evil and how to lessen our dislike for that individual.
In the passage that Paul gives in Romans 12:14-21, the Apostle summarizes the issue by giving us the answer to this dilemma: "Do not be overcome by evil, overcome evil with good" (Romans 12:21). Much of this course is based on this premise, that dealing with people we cannot stand requires us to overcome the evil in them that creates the animosity between us.
God's Strategy: Aggressive Good
Most counseling that one will receive when it comes to dealing with someone we cannot stand will help us use two strategies:
- Fight: How to fight the person with tactics that will overpower, neutralize or punish them.
- Flight: If we do not wish to fight them, we are taught how to run away, find shelter, purge the person and the hurt from our minds.
God offers us a third way and it is called aggressive good. We do not fight evil with evil, we do not run away from it, we overcome evil with good. To "overcome" means to win, God wants us to win over evil with good. This is the victory we seek. This strategy works better than fight or flight for two reasons:
1. Good is more powerful than evil
You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.
- I John 4:4
Because we are enemies it is always tempting to return evil for evil; because we are weak it is tempting to run away from evil. However, returning good for evil is superior because goodness is more powerful, has more ability to impact and change than evil. When you return good for evil you prove who is the stronger and better person.
2. Our objective is to destroy evil, not create more of it.
Doing evil puts you on the wrong side of God, joins you to the forces of Satan no matter what the provocation. Even if you lose the battle by returning good for evil, the war against evil is strengthened because by your sacrifice in one area with one person you are reducing the overall amount of evil in the world, and this is good.
- What strategy do you normally use with those you cannot stand - fight or flight? Explain.
- How is "overcoming evil with good" an aggressive action rather than a passive action? (Open discussion)
- Describe a situation in the world or the church where overcoming evil with good could be applied to solve a conflict. (Open discussion)
- Describe a situation in your life where this has been (or should be done) to resolve a conflict. (Each person reply)