Today there was an altercation in the street. Someone had pulled their car over while they answered a mobile phone call. They happened to pull over to a spot where there were parking restrictions. I can only guess that they had nowhere else to pull over and they did not want to miss the call. It is illegal to drive and talk on the phone in this area.
The home owner saw the car and came out to abuse the driver, telling him to move on. The driver refused to move on, as he did not wish to end the phone call. The home owner, who obviously took the parking restriction quite seriously, continued to abuse the driver and even attempted to break the car headlights. The driver got out of his car and punched the man kicking his car. The man hit back and others came to break up the fight.
A sad situation for all involved and one that is repeated frequently each day, in road rage, domestic abuse, work-place fights, pub-brawls, school-yard scuffles and so on. While it can be tricky at times to work out where the blame rests, especially when two people have acted violently, there is a Biblical principle which speaks to this situation. The principle is that of being ‘overcome by evil’.
Evil presents itself to us frequently and from several sources. A major source of evil is the human heart. Out of the human heart come such things as violence, anger, abuse, lust, greed, and so on. It is perfectly common for people to be overcome by evil that springs from their own heart. They may feel frustrated in some way, such as having someone else innocently get in their way. While no offence was intended the person who is frustrated may react with rage, physical violence, resentment or the like. That happens to us all quite frequently – when we are tempted to react wrongly to a situation.
If our internal response is to be jealous or angry, then we have to make a choice to either resist that response or to go with it. If we yield to it we are ‘overcome by evil’. If we resist it we are able to rule our own spirit and maintain freedom. Cain was told by God to resist the internal response of jealousy which he felt toward his brother Abel. Cain yielded to his internal inclination and became the first murderer.
At times we are the innocent person who inadvertently gets in someone else’s way. We frustrate or irritate people, often quite unwittingly. We may drive into a parking spot which they intended to take. We may buy the last item in the rack, which they were about to buy. We may drive into the traffic and block them from entering the vacant spot that we took. We may be happy when they are feeling unhappy. We may be enjoying a meal, when they are feeling hungry.
At such times that other person may have a wrong reaction, where evil springs from within them. They may want to fight us, argue with us, rebuke or reject us. When we confront such situations we are faced with yet another opportunity to resist evil. The confrontation will provoke us to a new level of reaction. We can buy into the argument, stand up and fight, hurl back abuse, or otherwise join in the evil exchange. When we do we are ‘overcome by evil’. This time we are overcome by someone else’s evil.
The Bible instructs us to not be overcome by evil, but to overcome evil with good. The challenge for both the men who ended up fighting over the parked car was to resist evil and to overcome it with good. Neither did so and both suffered the consequences of an ugly situation.