After many years of diverse career experience, I was excitedly counting down the days until my retirement. I eagerly anticipated being in control of my schedule and time while enjoying a slower pace of life. I envisioned more days devoted to serving in ministry at my church and deepening relationships...
Love overcomes evil by doing good, and one of the marks of genuine love is that it is generous.
Paul spells out what this looks like in Romans 12:9-21:
Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.
Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep
Generosity is seen when we open our home to others, or help to alleviate their needs. It is shown when we share the joys and sorrows of others, but most of all, it is on put on display when we choose to bless those who have hurt us.
Blessing someone who has hurt you doesn’t come naturally. When someone brings pain into your life, you will be tempted to focus on the injustice of what they have done. You will be tempted to brood over what you have lost, like Jonah who was angry when the plant that had given him shade was taken away. But God calls us to something better.
Generous people give more than is needed or expected. They give when kindness is not deserved and where it may never be returned. And God calls us to this because this is how He has dealt with us.
So how can we grow in generosity, and show kindness towards those who have hurt us?
1. Reflect on the example of Jesus.
One wound leads to another in our culture, and we become more and more divided. It is “an eye for an eye until the whole world goes blind” as Gandhi once said.
But Jesus was different. When the soldiers nailed our Lord to the cross, He did not curse them.
When He was reviled, He did not revile in return (1 Pet. 2:23).
Jesus sought the good of those who brought Him pain. He prayed, “Father, forgive them, they do not know what they are doing” (Lk. 23:34, NIV).
And Peter makes it clear that Jesus’ generosity towards those who wounded Him is an example for us to follow.
“For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in His steps,” (1 Pet. 2:20-21).
2. Consider the position of the person who has hurt you
Jesus prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). That tells us something about the spiritual condition of those who were persecuting Him. They were spiritually blind. They did not know because they could not see.
Robert Candlish1 points out that when a wrong is done to you, you can respond in one of two ways. One is to brood on the offense. But if you do that, your heart will soon become hard. A better way is to put yourself in the shoes of the person who has hurt you, and ask yourself:
• What would my life have been like if his/her story had been mine?
• What would I be like if I had experienced what he/she has endured?
• What if I was estranged from the knowledge of the love of God as he or she may be?
When Jonah was resentful towards the rebellious city of Nineveh, God said to him, “Should not I pity Nineveh?” (Jonah 4:11). Nineveh was a city of 120,000 people, and God said they “do not know their right hand from their left.”
The Ninevites had sinned to the point where they no longer knew the difference between right and wrong. To them evil had become good and good had become evil. That’s a tragic condition. It doesn’t call for anger, but for pity and compassion. “Jonah, when you see a their true spiritual condition, you will feel sorry for them!” In the same way, when you see the position of a person who doesn’t know what they are doing, you will have compassion, and compassion gives birth to generosity.
3. Remember how God has dealt with you.
While we were still sinners Christ died for us (Rom. 5:8). While we were still hostile to Him, God loved us (Rom. 8:7). While we were still God’s enemies He reconciled us to Himself in Christ (Rom. 5:10).
Generosity towards those who hurt us lies at the heart of the gospel, and it can have surprising results. God’s kindness led us to repentance (Romans 2:4), and your kindness towards someone who has hurt you may have the same effect
Our missions pastor, Brad Mullet, told me the story of Dusan, a believer he met on a recent trip. Dusan is Serbian but he grew up in Croatia where his family had lived and worked peaceably for years. But when war broke out in 1991, Serbians living in Croatia were rounded up and imprisoned.
After some weeks, Croatia agreed to repatriate about 250,000 Serbs who were being held within their borders. Dusan, at the age of 9, was put on a bus to go to Serbia with his mother and other siblings along with other children and their mothers. Fathers and older sons remained in prison in Croatia.
So Dusan boarded the bus, leaving his home with just one bag of personal possessions.
The journey was long, and when they finally stopped, Dusan charged off the bus. Thinking that they were in Serbia, he started shouting Serbian chants and yelling curses against Croatians. “I did this as only a zealous nine-year-old sinner could do.” Dusan said.
Dusan’s mother sprinted off the bus behind him and, when she caught up with him, clapped her hand over his mouth. “Be quiet! We’re still in Croatia!” she said.
Right then, Dusan noticed the squad of Croatian soldiers around them. The soldiers had heard him shouting and cursing, and one of them walked toward him. “Is this your son?” he asked Dusan’s mother. The mother was so afraid, she couldn’t utter a word. She just stood there with her head down, holding on to her son. The soldier told them to stay where they were, surrounded by Croatian army, and said he would be back.
After some time, he returned carrying a box. “It’s a long journey,” he said to Dusan. Here is something to eat and drink.” When Dusan opened the box, he found that it was full of treats and snacks.
Years later, when Dusan heard the gospel, he remembered the kindness of the Croatian soldier. “Here’s what the gospel is like,” he said. “It’s like I came running off the bus, shouting obscenities against God, clearly his enemy and clearly powerless, and God responded with a gift!”
And what a gift! The Son of God loved us and gave himself for us. (Galatians 2:20)
God overcomes evil with generosity and He calls us, by the power of His Spirit, to deal with others as He has dealt with us.
This article is adapted from Pastor Colin’s sermon, “Overcoming Evil with Generosity,” from his series, Overcoming Evil.
1. Robert Candlish, Studies in Romans 12 (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1989), 244.