Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.-Romans 12:21
What is Paul saying when he tells us not to be overcome by evil, but to overcome evil with good? Paul summarized in one last sentence everything he had been trying to tell us about putting love into action. We already know the importance that Paul put on love, but Paul was not talking about romantic love or love that is based purely emotions or feelings. Paul was talking about a love that is based not only on emotions or feelings, but is also based on the ability to reason and think or to make choices not based on how you feel but based on who you know and what you know. Just as in 1 Corinthians 13, where Paul describes this king of love, Paul also describes what this kind of love looks like in Romans 12:9-20.
Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in pray. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you, bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. 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.”-Romans 12:9-20 NIV
Paul in this very short section gave us the formula for overcoming evil with good, and it is a very simple formula. And that is to treat your enemies with the same love and kindness that you would show to your friends. Jesus said something similar when he was asked what the greatest commandment from God was. And here is what he said:
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.-Matthew 22:37-40 NIV
Jesus and Paul are saying the exact same thing. The way to overcome evil is through love. And true love is demonstrated through actions. Jesus loved us enough to die for our sins while we were still his enemies. If Jesus was willing to do that for you, then you should be willing to show that same kind of love to all those you come into contact with.