Stop Evil, Start Good
THE way to stop a vicious cycle of evil is to break through it with good. As long as evil is met with evil and hate calls forth hate and violence stirs violence in return, the whirlpool of wickedness will spin faster and those in it will be sucked under. Just as it takes a physically powerful man to swim against a whirlpool, it takes a spiritually strong one to go against a cycle of evil by doing good. It is more than a measure of manliness; it is a measure of godliness.
Jesus said so: “You heard that it was said: ‘You must love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ However, I say to you: Continue to love your enemies and to pray for those persecuting you; that you may prove yourselves sons of your Father who is in the heavens, since he makes his sun rise upon wicked people and good and makes it rain upon righteous people and unrighteous. For if you love those loving you, what reward do you have? are not also the tax collectors doing the same thing? And if you greet your brothers only, what extraordinary thing are you doing? Are not also the people of the nations doing the same thing? You must accordingly be complete, as your heavenly Father is complete.”—Matt. 5:43-48, NW.
The apostle Paul told the Christians at Rome: “Return evil for evil to no one.” He gave similar counsel to those at Thessalonica: “See that no one renders injury for injury to anyone else.” This is easy to preach but hard to practice, but Paul both preached it and practiced it: “When being reviled, we bless; when being persecuted, we bear up; when being defamed, we entreat.”—Rom. 12:17; 1 Thess. 5:15; 1 Cor. 4:12, 13, NW.
Jesus had this high degree of godliness, and we are told to take him as a model to follow: “When he was being reviled, he did not go to reviling in return. When he was suffering, he did not go to threatening, but kept on committing himself to the one who judges righteously. In fact, to this course you were called, because even Christ suffered for you, leaving you a model for you to follow his steps closely.”—1 Pet. 2:23, 21, NW.
The usual practice among men is to be decent to those decent to you, to respect those respecting you, to be angry with those angry with you, to strike those striking you. To do this is to let others shape you, determine your conduct, make you what you are. Actually, they make you what they are, making you take on their own sinful image. If you have high standards of conduct, why forsake them for the low standards of others? Why let the evil of others be stronger than your own goodness? To let this happen is to deny yourself, what you stand for, the principles you hold dear. Copy Jesus, who holds true to what he is, unchanged by the weaknesses of those around him: “If we are unfaithful, he remains faithful, for he cannot deny himself.”—2 Tim. 2:13, NW.
If you are strong enough to stop a cycle of evil with good, you may start a cycle of good. “A soft answer turns away wrath.” This soft answer does not come from your weakness but springs from your strength, and the wrathful one senses this truth. Since so many persons return like for like, your breakthrough with goodness switches the cycle from evil to good. “A liberal man will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered.” “Cast your bread upon the waters, for you will find it after many days.” It may take some time for your goodness to bring in a harvest of good from others. You cannot sow seed one day and reap wheat the next. Nevertheless, “whatever a man is sowing, this he will also reap; so let us not give up in doing what is right, for in due season we shall reap by not giving out.”—Prov. 15:1; Pr 11:25; Eccl. 11:1, RS; Gal. 6:7, 9, NW.
Jehovah God sowed love toward mankind, and he reaps love from those not insensible to his goodness. God created the earth we live on, the air we breathe, the plants and animals we eat, and the water we drink. Many take all this for granted, never thanking him. They work, they make money, they buy their food, so why thank God for it? So they reason. The farmer can plant seed and water and cultivate it, but he cannot make it grow: “Neither is he that plants anything nor is he that waters, but God who makes it grow.” Tracing the source of your blessings soon ends up at God. This is inescapably true, for both good persons and bad.—1 Cor. 3:7, NW.
But bad persons refuse to acknowledge their indebtedness to God. The love God sows toward them falls on sterile soil and all that results is indifference or unbelief. But it is different with grateful persons, with Christians. The outpouring of God’s love calls forth a loving response: “As for us, we love, because he first loved us.” The most vital feature of God’s love is his provision of Jesus the Ransom: “The love is in this respect, not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent forth his Son as a propitiatory sacrifice for our sins.” Few indeed show proper response to this loving provision by actively loving God: “This is what the love of God means, that we observe his commandments.”—1 John 4:19, 10; 5:3, NW.
So break up a cycle of evil by doing good. “Do not let yourself be conquered by the evil, but keep conquering the evil with the good.” And be responsive to goodness from others. Especially respond, with loving obedience, to the love God showers on us.—Rom. 12:21, NW.