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Posted by Dr. Scott Solberg on Mar 20, 2019

Overcoming Evil with Good

RECENTLY IN MY DEVOTIONAL READING, I was in Luke 11. In this passage we encounter the peculiar picture of what D. A. Carson calls a “partial conversion.”

In Luke 11:24-26, Jesus says that when an evil spirit is cast out of a person it goes looking for someone else in whom to take residence. Finding no one, this spirit goes and finds seven more spirits and re-enters the individual it had just left. This causes Jesus to conclude, “And the last state of that person is worse than the first.”

What do we make of this peculiar passage?

For starters, the man who was exorcised of the evil spirit never replaced that spirit with anything else. In other words, the Holy Spirit did not take up residence in his life; and so, the man simply remained vacant. So, the issue is not just about getting rid of evil. Rather, the issue is “overcoming evil” by replacing it with good. It is fully turning to Christ in faith.

This seems to be the point Paul is making in Romans 12:21. Here Paul instructs us “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

Consider this meditation by D. A. Carson in the devotional, For the Love of God.

Evil cannot simply be opposed–that is, it is never enough to simply fight evil, to cast out a demon. Evil must be replaced by good, the evil spirit by the Holy Spirit. We must “overcome evil with good.”

For instance, it is difficult to overcome bitterness against someone by simply resolving to stop being bitter; one must replace bitterness with genuine forgiveness and love for that person.

It is difficult to overcome greed by simply resolving not to be quite so materialistic; one must fasten one’s affections on better treasure and learn to be wonderfully and self-sacrificially generous.

Overcome evil with good.

I found this devotional to be helpful in my own struggle with evil. As I resist it, what good do I pursue to replace it and actually overcome it?

Think about it!