I’ve been thinking a lot about the recent school shooting in Uvalde, Texas. It’s hard to wrap my head around the notion of a teenager choosing to end the lives of 19 children and 2 adults. It’s hard to grasp that degree of indifference, hatred, and animosity toward one’s fellow humans. 

How we deal with the evil around us says a lot about us. For some, it’s why they no longer believe in God. For others, it’s why they doubt the power of God or the goodness of God. And they question the intellect or goodness of anyone who would believe in such a God. 

The Bible doesn’t shy away from the problem of evil, in whatever form it may occur. Job wondered why he was suffering, even though he knew he wasn’t guilty of blatant transgression. The psalmist wondered why his wicked neighbors prospered (Psalm 73). Solomon saw injustice on top of injustice under the sun (Ecclesiastes 4.1-3). It’s not a new problem. 

How do we deal with evil when we encounter it? I want to look at a three-part answer given to us by the apostle Paul in Romans 12. He doesn’t (nor will I) address the philosophical or theological dimensions of evil. He simply gives three practical admonitions to help us cope with evil on a daily basis.

First, he says, “Abhor what is evil” (v. 9). It’s hard to condemn the evil in others if our own attitude is suspect. We can’t afford to wink at evil or make subtle distinctions between our sins and the sins of others. Good is the atmosphere in which we thrive. We must surround ourselves with others who love what’s right, who do what’s right, and who encourage others to do what’s right. That’s why fellowship other Christians is so vital in our daily walk. You can’t avoid evil, but you can learn to think properly about it.

Second, he says, “Never pay back evil for evil to anyone” (v. 17). That’s simple enough. If someone provokes you, don’t respond in kind. If someone curses you, bless them. If someone angers you, let it go. I don’t believe he’s addressing the issue of self-defense or defending the innocent who are targets of evil attacks. I believe he’s addressing kind of things we face every day at work, or at the store, or in the neighborhood, or at a restaurant. We can’t avoid evil in these circumstances, but we can learn to exercise self-control in the way we respond. As Paul says two verses later, “Leave room for the wrath of God” (v. 19b).

Finally, he says, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (v. 21). It’s easy to be discouraged. It’s easy to throw up our hands in despair and ask, “What’s the use?” It’s easy to think that God doesn’t care. Evil will ultimately be defeated by God. He’s greater than Satan, greater than evil, and greater than sin. The victory was won at the cross by Jesus. He simply asks us to wage our own war here in this life.

Today and every day, choose good.