The other day the Lord began to work on my hard heart upon waking while I was still waiting for the coffee to brew. I’ve been angry with how truly ugly people have become, and how easily they speak dripping in vitriol. As is so often the case, the Lord didn’t want to show me anything particular about others, but instead wanted to show me that I was choosing to react to evil, and conform my response to evil in like kind. “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Rom 12:21)
I must confess that “hearing” about that first thing before coffee almost makes coffee not required. I needed to go to God’s Word, because I knew He was speaking to me about changing the worldly behavior that I’ve allowed myself to express. I am NOT of this world; I’m the daughter of the king and as such I can’t act like a worldly hoodlum. “See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.” (Col 2:8)
The Lord took me to Ephesians 5, which begins: “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.” (Eph 5:1-2) The first thing that’s said is that we are to be imitators of God and walk in love. We see this repeated, “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” (1 Jn 4:11)
In fact there’s only room for godliness and holiness: “But immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints; and there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks.” (Eph 5:3-4) There’s no room in a Christ follower’s conversation for talk that does anything but glorify our Lord. How can we praise God and remind others of His goodness when we speak badly of others or talk coarsely?
While we are in the world, we aren’t to be of the world: “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Rom 12:2) When we humbly submit ourselves to the work of the Holy Spirit, then we won’t be deceived by others’ empty words, risking God’s wrath (Eph 5:6). We won’t partake in evil deeds, but will instead “walk as children of Light” because “the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth” (Eph 5:7-9), and “all things become visible when they are exposed by the light” (Eph 5:13).
So then we are reminded of who we are and how we are supposed to be in the world: “Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil.” (Eph 5:15-16) The phrase used, “the days are evil” should communicate to us a sense of urgency because of evil’s pervasiveness. If you’re paying attention at all, you know that the news each day tops the day before in the evil done to others. “Because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold.” (Matt 24:12)
Alternatively, as God’s children we are to keep our standards high, act wisely, and do good when we can. “Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity.” (Col 4:5) So given who we are–Children of the Light–we are to be a light that shines in the ever-pervading worldly darkness.
“So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father; and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.” (Eph 5:17-21) I just don’t see anything in this passage that gives me permission as God’s child to return evil for evil. It’s time to break up the fallow ground, and repent!