Most of us would not think of ourselves as being able to be brought under the power of evil, or of a demon or evil spirit. If someone accused us of coming under such power we would feel deeply offended and react with indignation.
We might think of ourselves has having weaknesses, and tendencies that we are not proud of, such as speaking with a sharp tongue, getting annoyed, being drawn to immoral thought or talk, and so on. We most likely excuse those to some degree as maybe a ‘besetting sin’ or an area where we reflect the negatives of our upbringing.
However, the Apostle Paul, in the Bible, gives Christians a clear instruction to not be overcome by evil.
“Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.” Romans 12:21
So, whether you like it or not, it is possible for Christians to be overcome by evil.
To be ‘overcome’ means to be conquered or subdued. That is to say that evil has somehow put its foot on us and pinned us down, making us serve it.
But it also suggests that we have allowed that to happen, as in having submitted ourself to some unholy impulse of evil.
Some people are subdued by being conquered in battle. They have resisted the attacker but been too weak to fight off the attack. Yet others have been tricked, or pressured into giving in, when they could have kept resisting. It seems that Paul is speaking to Christians about that second case, where, for whatever reason, a Christian gives in to evil, instead of resisting it.
That might be by such things as giving in to temptation, accepting an unholy idea because it somehow appeals to their personal values, or allowing pride or self-righteousness, or the like, to cause them to be unkind or hurtful to others, so not reflecting Christ.
I came across a rather graphic picture of someone being ‘overcome by evil’ in the biography of Australian woman Fiona Beazley, ‘Preserved for Such a Time As This’. Fiona’s account gave me a fresh awareness of how people can yield to evil. I recently met Fiona and discussed what she had gone through.
Fiona was raised by a non-Christian mum who had a bunch of her own issues. As a girl Fiona often saw dark figures around her which she identified as demons. On one occasion, seeing the room full of these creatures, Fiona reacted and screamed. One huge demonic figure was particularly intimidating.
Fiona’s mother rushed into the room angry at Fiona for making a fuss. Fiona continued to react as the huge demon continued to threaten her. Suddenly Fiona saw the huge demon slip into the mother’s body and the mother began beating Fiona mercilessly. Fiona regained consciousness in her mother’s arms, as the mother sobbed for what she had done to her child.
That’s a tragic situation and Fiona recognises that her mother had mental illness issues. At the same time it suggests a picture of Fiona’s mum suddenly being ‘overcome’ by an evil presence, causing her to take far more drastic abusive action than the mother would have intended.
That account reminded me of situations where people react unreasonably or over-the-top, as if someone had pressed their buttons and set them off. Sudden outbursts of anger or pride, bragging, outlandish behaviour, fits of depression, violence, abuse, lust, greed, lying, terror, etc, could all be situations not far removed from what Fiona saw as a child.
One day my brother teased a school classmate about how weak the boy was and the boy immediately fell to the ground and began doing push-ups. I watched in horror as the boy kept going, obsessively, until his face was bright red and every muscle bristling. We tried to tell the boy he had made his point but somehow the boy was no longer in control of his body and was playing out a painful act as if ‘possessed’.
I dare say that young man was overcome by something, probably related to pride, in that startling moment.
Being overcome by evil doesn’t have to involve such dramatic invasion of evil into a person. But it does involve Christians allowing evil to rule them, instead of Christ.
Paul makes another reflection of people’s love for God being overcome by other choices when he wrote to Timothy about helping young widows.
“Do not put younger widows on the list of widows. For when their sensual desires overcome their dedication to Christ, they will want to marry again.” 1Timothy 5:11
It is not a sin for widows to remarry but the widow ministry comprised women dedicated to prayer, not to starting a new life.
What is significant here is that people can make a vow of dedication and have that ‘overcome’ by personal interests. That is being overcome by evil.
There is much more to say on this topic, which I will get to at a later time. Right now, consider the example Fiona’s biography provides and consider if you need to find God’s help. You may well need to employ the weapons of spiritual warfare and get help from your Christian support team (church and Spirit-filled believers) if you recognise any pattern of you being Overcome By Evil.