12:21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. [NET]
The topic today is about influence. About being influenced as well as influencing others.
The verse seems simple enough to understand in English. But I thought I’d look up the word “overcome” in the Greek to learn more about its context. It proved interesting.
“Overcome” is the Greek word, nikao. It means literally to carry off in victory as in a battle; to conquer or subue.
The first usage says “don’t be overcome by evil.” The verb is in the passive voice. Like a mighty current of water, we are not to be swept away by it. We must anchor ourselves to the truth and hold fast to it. The world, the devil, and the flesh would all three love to see us drift downstream, but we must vigilantly stand strong against the tide.
This brings to mind our kids’ round swimming pool. One of the fun things was always to get everyone moving in one direction creating a tornado effect. Once it was going really fast it was always fun to try to stand firm. It was hard not to be pushed over!
The second usage of the word nikao says “overcome evil with good.” This verb is in the active voice. So it’s not enough to just avoid being influenced by the current, we are to proactively take initiative in conquering evil with good. To maintain the metaphor, we need to somehow reverse the flow of the stream of evil.
But exactly what does that mean to overcome evil with good? Does it mean we agressively focus on the “wrong-way” waters, seeking to correct their wayward course? Or does it mean that we should focus on our own actions, actively moving forward toward what’s good so that the current around us begins to follow us in a new direction.
I think the latter. This topic has been on my mind recently. I blogged extensively on it a few weeks ago, so rather than repeat my thoughts, I’ll end by referring you to that post of mine called “for evil to triumph.”
(*For this summer, I’ve divided up Romans 12-16 into daily readings and have committed to daily journaling my reflections about each to correspond with Pastor Bob’s sermon series.)