I came across several verses this morning that set up a theme.
“Hate what is evil; cling to what is good” (Rom 12:9)
“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (v. 21)
“Be wise about what is good and innocent about what is evil” (16:19)
“In regard to evil be infants, but in your thinking be adults” (1 Cor 14:20).
“Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil” (1 Thess 5:21-22).
Verse 16 intrigues me. Innocent describes a person with a pure mind – unmixed with evil. That was Adam and Eve, the first humans and the last innocent people on earth. God told them not to take the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil because, at this point, they were pure. In their innocence, they were free from the harmful effects of the knowledge of evil, a knowledge they—and we—are unable to bear. The serpent led them to believe that if they ate from the tree, they could know what God knew. And he was right. To a point. He failed to tell them that they did not have the moral capacity to bear that knowledge without disastrous repercussions.
When she plucked that piece of tainted fruit Eve got “knowledge” all right, but she also got much more than she bargained for. When she and Adam were exposed to the knowledge of evil, evil overtook them and buried their innocence. They had the “knowledge of evil,” but not the power to resist it.
But Paul said there is good news: good can overcome evil. That’s where Jesus comes in. He is the only pure, good, innocent human being to walk on earth. He took His good to the cross and to the grave and there overcome the evil that was destroying God’s good creation.
So how do you and I overcome evil? The same way the saints did: “They overcame [the evil one] by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony” (Rev 12:11). We overcome the evil nature within by faith in Jesus. We overcome evil in the world by proclaiming what God has done for us. And we overcome evil in our daily lives. We avoid it, hate it, and turn our minds away from it. We refuse to give it a foothold (Eph 4:27). You were not made for evil, Beloved. You were made good (Gen 1:31).