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Speaking to the Soul: Overcoming Evil

Speaking to the Soul: Overcoming Evil

Week of Proper 10, Year Two

[Go to Mission St Clare for an online version of the Daily Office including today’s scripture readings.]

Today’s Readings for the Daily Office:

Psalms 31 (morning) // 35 (evening)

Joshua 4:19-5:1,10-15

Romans 12:9-21

Matthew 26:17-25

In today’s second reading, Paul gives us his best advice for overcoming evil. Here’s a brief sampling of his approach: “be patient in suffering,” “Bless those who persecute you,” “live peaceably with all,” “never avenge yourselves.” On the one hand, these words sometimes help me to weather unkindness and unfairness when they come my way. But on the other hand, these words sound like a recipe for making peace with oppression.

Endure suffering patiently? Bless your persecutors? Keep your mouths shut and your hands in your pockets when you’re injured or violated? Christians have a long history of ladling out this advice to the poor and oppressed.

When determining a faithful response to evil and injustice, it is most important to bear in mind Paul’s end game: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Some of Paul’s strategies might not always be effective, but we can still embrace his objective of not giving evil the victory. What daily habits and long-term tactics can help us not to be overcome by evil, but to overcome evil with good?

Another sampling from today’s reading could give us a place to start: “hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good,” “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep,” “do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly.” As we seek to overcome evil, there is room for hatred and sorrow as well as for joy. There are also intentional choices that we can make to take hold of goodness and to connect ourselves with the lowly of this world. May we find the most effective means to overcome the evil that confronts us today.

Lora Walsh blogs about taking risks and seeking grace at A Daily Scandal. She serves as Priest Associate of Grace Episcopal Church in Siloam Springs and assists with adult formation and campus ministry at St. Paul’s in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

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Philip B. Spivey

With all due respect, Paul is extolling the perfect Christian response to life's events, much as Plato envisioned a world of transcendent Forms; detaching from the material world and embracing the transcendent.

We seek to reach these transcendent Forms through worship and prayer, but the very best we can do, on a daily basis, is to approximate them Only the Divine, in the person of Jesus, can can inhabit these Forms totally.

That has left most Christians struggling to deal with the realities of the material world. With regard to the "oppressions", we must look past the letter of the law, to something that can encompass the spirit.

Black theologians are struggling with the notions of evil and oppression in a growing literature of liberation theology. Some have concluded that"ideal" prescriptions, like the ones that Paul suggests, have no place in God's plan. Rather, God's plan involves turning suffering into action; collective action.

Black Lives Matter is an excellent example of this kind of action.

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