I heard on the news recently that the Predators beat the Ducks. That doesn’t sound like a fair match up, does it? To make matters worse, the Ducks’ coach was fired afterwards. I’m not sure what they expected of him, but there is justice in this world. Not long after, the Predators played the Sharks, and it didn’t go well for them.
As you read through the book of Acts, sometimes it seems like the Predators vs. the Ducks. Hostile religious and civil authorities make life difficult for the early disciples of Jesus. They repeatedly arrest and imprison their leaders. Stephen and James are put to death. The emperor, Claudius, expels Jewish Christians from Rome. Despite all of this, communities of disciples continue to grow and spread throughout the world.
One of the most fascinating aspects of Luke’s account is how the most militant persecutor of the church becomes a follower of Jesus. He is first introduced as Saul of Tarsus but is better known to us as Paul. Jesus appears to him while he is traveling to Damascus to apprehend Christians and take them back to Jerusalem to be punished. As a result of his encounter with Jesus, Paul is blinded. He is taken to Damascus where a disciple named Ananias restores his sight and baptizes him.
Paul follows Jesus as passionately as he had opposed Him and His followers. He goes all over the world establishing churches, he raises money for benevolent purposes, and he suffers much for the cause of Christ. And while he doesn’t start the church in Rome, he is very much interested in it and writes a letter to them.
Romans is written during the early part of Nero’s reign. The great fire and all of the problems that would bring for the church is still a few years away. In the twelfth chapter Paul gives the disciples a challenging charge when he writes, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (v. 21).
There was plenty of evil in Rome to be overwhelmed by—sins against God as well as sins against man. Essentially, it was a first century version of what disciples face today. More to the point is how Paul says they are to keep from being overcome by evil. They are to overcome evil with good.
This is more than just a nice sounding platitude. This was God’s approach in sending Jesus. Christ went around doing good (Acts 10:38). He demonstrated what it meant to love God and to love man. For this He was crucified! But the predators didn’t have the last word. God raised Him from the dead.
The disciples at Rome took Paul’s words seriously and followed Jesus’ example. They didn’t return evil for evil—even when Nero begins to bring them into the Colosseum and have them put to death in despicable ways. But the story doesn’t end there. Today Rome is a city in Italy and the kingdom of Jesus is all over the world.
Speaking of today, the script hasn’t changed. It’s still the predators vs. the ducks. The thing disciples have to remember is that we don’t overcome by trying to be predators. We don’t against the world; we fly in formation above it.