Good men doing something

We’re taking time this week with a much-repeated phrase: “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”

In the context of conservative churches, this saying has become a dangerous inducement to abandon Christian principles in the name of “doing something” about evil. All of that love your enemy, don’t seek revenge, wait on the Lord stuff just doesn’t cut it. Christian men need to do something about evil. With their tongues. With their fists. With their guns. Otherwise… well, you know what the quote says.

And yes, the Bible says we are here to serve and not to lord it over others. Says that we are citizens of heaven and not of this world. But we have to do something about evil! With our tongues. With our e-mails. With our vote. Otherwise… well, you know what the quote says.

What about things like non-violent resistance? What about denouncing injustice from outside the system? What about overcoming evil with good rather than answering it with evil? What about prayer? Nope. Sorry. Not good enough.

What about having the patience to let the Lord act? What about fighting evil empires with the same weapons the early Christians did? No way! If you haven’t noticed, they got thrown to the lions.

When we lay aside the fruit of the Spirit and embrace the works of the flesh, what do we think is really going on? Does that somehow become spiritual when done for a “good reason”?

When good men are induced to fight evil with evil, the result is still evil, no matter the initial justification. When we throw away the Kingdom’s armor and take up the world’s weapons, the triumph belongs to the world and not the Kingdom.

All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to use evil’s tools to try and defeat it.

Photo by Konrad Baranski

16 thoughts on “Good men doing something

  1. “When we throw away the Kingdom’s armor and take up the world’s weapons, the triumph belongs to the world and not the Kingdom.”

    Tim where do you think this evil resides that we must fight.?

  2. As I’ve read over the comments made this week, it brings to mind two statements I have made many times in the conservative CoCs (neither of which was received well). First, we are more likely to imitate John Wayne than Jesus Christ in the way we handle the struggles of this world (gimme a gun, we’ll make this right). Second, God created government, but Satan created politics, and it’s a snare that’s trapped a whole bunch of us! I think of the various examples we have of God handling a political problem, some of which have been mentioned (400 years in Egyptian bondage, for example). There’s God telling Abraham that the Amorites would be destroyed….centuries later. The Israelites lost battles because they rushed in instead of waiting on God. We are encouaraged many times in the Psalms to “wait on the Lord.” While we constantly quote Isaiah 55:8-9, in practicality most of us refuse to trust God’s methods and timing. We want to do as Peter did, grab our swords and fight for our Christ, when what Jesus expects us to do is really quite the opposite.

  3. Laymond,

    First in our own hearts and wills, no? Second, what about the oppression and injustice perpetrated by others–individuals, governments, classes, etc.?

    Travis,

    i’m just curious about what you mean by “God created government.” Could you elaborate?

    –guy

  4. Laymond – In the broadest sense, government being the rules and structure by which a society is governed. Dating back to Cain’s banishment from the garden, God established rules and structure for society. My main argument in support of “God created government” would be Romans 13:1 – Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. (ESV)

  5. Oops, Cain wasn’t banished from the garden, fast forward a bit, but you get the point!

  6. Travis,

    [I think you are answering Guy, not Laymond]

    It’s my belief that man created human government, hearkening back to the same time you mention. Cain built the first city, and cities led to government. Before that, it was just God governing over man.

    Romans 13 doesn’t seem to refer to the establishment of all governments, but the powers that were in place at the time Romans 13 was written. (Although Lipscomb argued that we should understand that verse to say that God “ordered” the powers, that is, he brought them into line)

  7. The Law of Unintended Consequences makes action for action’s sake – or just ill-considered action just to either feel like you’re doing something or to *look like* you’re doing something – just as perilous a proposition as doing nothing.

    Every action we take eliminates other options. The wisdom of the serpent (Be ye wise as serpents and innocent as doves) is in stillness combined with rapid, accurate action at the right time.

  8. Tim, we will just disagree on this, because it may ultimately be a matter of semantics (if God governed over man, was it still not a form of government?), but it’s not a salvation issue, so that’s OK.

  9. Government is established to keep society from falling into anarchy. Even an oppressive government is better than anarchy or mob rule.

    Tim,

    I appreciate the thrust of this article. Much of the discussion so far seems to drift into another subject.

    The point you are making, however, seems to be that we are to do something – just not necessarily what others may urge upon us. You are right in suggesting that when we take up the works of the flesh to overcome the flesh, we will always lose. Yes, we must do something about evil – but that something is that we must overcome it as Jesus did, with good.

    Our problem is that this is so difficult we fear to try it. After all, it got Jesus crucified! He “spoke Truth to power,” as the popular expression today goes. He did not attempt to overcome power with power – but with true agape love. Will it work today? Our answer to that question determines whether we really believe the gospel, doesn’t it?

    Too many times, we show by our actions that we do not really believe.

  10. Jerry said, “You are right in suggesting that when we take up the works of the flesh to overcome the flesh, we will always lose.”

    Right you are, first we have to “beat the devil” out of our spirit, and soul.:)

  11. Love one’s enemy IS doing something about evil. But there are other ways God may call us to fight the good fight too. Tim, we must consdier 2 Corinthians 10:1-6 in this context. Paul calls us to use unworldly “weapons” with which to “fight” (not as the world fights) to “demolish strongholds.” Paul directs his readers to “demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God.” (2 Cor. 10:5). To prepare ourselves for this opposition of ungodly arguments and pretensions, Paul encourages us to “take every thought captive.”

  12. Right you are, first we have to “beat the devil” out of our spirit, and soul.

    Nice turn of a phrase, Laymond. I’ll have to remember that one.

  13. Joel,

    You don’t think 2 Corinthians 10 is calling for physical resistance, do you? I see “demolish strongholds” as a call to the refutation of false teaching, especially given the context of the 2 Corinthians 10-13.

    Grace and peace,
    Tim

  14. What all of this boils down to is a rehash of the faith and works discussion. I like what someone said, “Pray like it all depends on God, but work like it all depends on us.”

    Paul may have summed it up best:

    Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed–not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence–continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose. (Philippians 2:12-13, ESV)

    Obeying is doing something. Working out your own salvation is doing something. Yet, where does Paul say this obedience and working out originate? “It is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose.” From whence does the desire to obey God come? How about the power to obey God in a world that is set on denying God? Paul says these come from God Himself. Of course, we must “continue” in what God has begun in us.

    So, is it faith or trust in God – or is it works and obedience on our part? God is the object of our faith and the source of our works, both in our desiring them and in performing them. So, who gets the credit? If we focus on self, we claim the credit; if we focus on God, we see His hand and His purpose in everything we have done.

    MUST God work through us? I do not think so. In fact, I can tell you stories of how God has worked where those diametrically opposed to God became His agents to accomplish His purposes, even when it was not in their heart to do so. Nevertheless, when we yield ourselves as instruments of righteousness to obey Him, what God does in overcoming evil in the world also functions to form us into the image of His son. This, of course, is His will and purpose for each one of us.

  15. Do I think 2 Corinthians 10 is calling for physical resistance? Paul calls us to use ‘unworldly weapons’ (not tanks or guns) with which to ‘fight’ (not as the world fights) to ‘demolish strongholds’ (ungodly worldviews). Paul directs his readers to ‘demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God.’ (2 Cor. 10:5).”

    Tim, while physical resistance may be ethical in some circumstances to protect children or women or the innocent from danger, this passage is clearly talking about opposition to “arguments and pretentions.” Unbiblical or ungodly worldviews that dismantle decency do call for GRACEFUL opposition, speaking the truth in love and acting in full trust in God to the end. I think God does not want us to roll over in the face of evil but He also wants us to use Christ-like (non-worldly) ways to do it under the guidance of His Spirit.

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