“Do not repay evil for evil, but overcome evil with good.”
I generally remain out of the loop when it comes to world news, mostly because its almost always bad news, and I don’t particularly like bad news. But, as Charlie said in his sermon on Sunday, it takes good people (hopefully me) to speak against evil in order for anything to change. When good people stand by and let evil do what evil will, evil will always prevail.
Enter dialogue on Syria and President Obama’s plan to launch missile strikes against President Assad’s “regime”.
While I don’t see this crisis as being much different than the one in Libya a few years ago, and I don’t see it as evidence of fulfillment of end times prophecies (as some are in the habit of trying to determine), I also don’t see the good guys anywhere in this story. And its not just a story: its really happening.
Our President made a statement in the past that the use of chemical weapons will warrant “intervention” on the part of the United States in the conflict in Syria. For some reason, killing people with guns and bombs and other weapons is bearable, but once the weapons are of the chemical nature we need to step in. The logic of the argument is lost on me. On Wednesday, my friend Zach said he would rather the President go back on his word than go to war and cause more human suffering in the process. Both would be shameful, but one would be a shame only borne by the President. The other is a shame that has an impact on the lives of more innocent human beings.
So, let me name the evil. President Assad is acting out evil by killing his people to maintain control of his country. Killing people is always evil. Its called murder. This week, apparently, Assad’s regime killed hundreds with chemical weapons, and injured even more. That’s evil. I don’t believe President Assad is evil, but his actions over the last couple of years certainly are.
Evil is also President Obama dropping bombs on Syria, killing more innocent humans. Dropping more bombs can never lead to peace, at least peace like we imagine it. It might lead to the evils of Assad being thwarted, and a Pax Americana, but not a real peace. I don’t believe that President Obama is evil, but his plan to “strike” Syria with missiles is evil.
Can a parent teach a child that they shouldn’t hit others by hitting their child? Can a teacher teach students to be quiet in class by yelling louder? The answer is no, but the reality is that we try to do this all the time. We try to “teach somebody a lesson” by being even more evil, more hurtful, more terrifying than the offender. But the only lesson that is learned is that the one who is bigger, stronger, or more powerful is always going to have the upper hand. Its a lesson, but its the wrong lesson.
America has been trying to teach this lesson to the world for the past century and what has the world learned, outside of learning that they need more power, more weapons, more military? Has Pax Americana lead to peace?
So what does it look like to “overcome evil with good”? I believe with everything inside of me that “the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness cannot overcome it”. But how is this possible? When evil is so big, how do we respond with good, and overcome it?
It’s one thing when the evil is in our own backyard. When its here. When we can see it, touch it, smell it, and feel its effects. Dr. Marin Luther King, Jr. showed us what overcoming evil with good looks like here. It looks like refusing to fight, and refusing to back down. It looks like being attacked with a fire hose and billy clubs and showing the world how evil the evil is by shining brightly in its face, letting the world see what brutality looks like when met with no brutality in return. But what do we do when the evil is somewhere else? Pray? Make empty statements from across the pond? Send aid? Send unarmed aid workers to heal and restore the lives of the injured Syrians? I really don’t know.
Our powerful men (the President, Congress, and military leaders) have everything to lose if they don’t wield their might against the weaker evils in the world. They have acquired what they want, namely power, and will do anything to preserve it. We have a saying for that: “Drunk with power”.
I have been told that our President has faith in Jesus. But he has become drunk with power to the point that the White House can state, “President Obama’s decision-making will be guided by what is in the best interests of the United States,” instead of, “President Obama’s decision-making will be guided by Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit.” And that’s what evil does. When we let it take root in us, we begin to be guided by false interests. It’s false to say that bombing Syria is in the best interests of the United States.
I don’t have a solution. I hate that. I am just sitting here wondering how to, as a follower of Jesus, stand up to evil with overwhelming goodness. Not only the evil that is in Syria, but the evil that is right here at home. So I pray that our President sees beyond his power to control what goes on in the world. I pray that he is given pause by a prophet in his life that shows him that he is the evil man that he is trying to fight against, just like Nathan was for King David. Right now that feels like the best that I can do.