A commonly held idea is that evil men hold sway because the righteous do nothing to resist them. Consequently, we are barraged with messages, calling us to rise up and oppose the evil being committed or planned by others.
By way of contrast, Romans 12:21 says Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good. These words simply echo those of Jesus in Matthew 5:39-44.
I can be fairly certain that most of us don't really believe that this is possible. Our minds and past experience say loudly that evil must be overcome by resistance and opposition. The very idea that we could overcome evil by kindness, patience, and understanding is just too ludicrous for words. No way, Jose!
I understand fully. My head tells me the same thing. I guess in effect, my mind says show me one time in human history where evil was subdued by kindness, and maybe I could accept the possibility.
In that regard, the story of Jesus comes to mind. What was Jesus' mission? To deal with sin, right? In dealing with sin, did He also deal with evil? Aren't sinfulness and evil essentially the same?
If Jesus came to deal with sin and evil, was He successful? If successful, how did He overcome evil? We will notice that the Bible describes Jesus' mission as involving forgiveness, restoration, redemption, justification, etc. Each of these terms imply that Jesus dealt with evil/sin by extending love, mercy, and grace, not by opposing, criticizing, and punishing.
An additional note is the fact that Jesus' sacrifice is said to be integral to our salvation. How did that sacrifice occur? Did the sacrifice of Jesus come about because He resisted or submitted to evil men? If Jesus had resisted evil in the way we are prone to do, would He have died at all? It's debatable, but certainly His story would be very different.
If Jesus' death was necessary, then unless He was to commit suicide, someone had to be the instrument of His death. Either Jesus was going to resist the attempt on His life and oppose God's purpose or He was going to submit, in accordance with that purpose. We know from the scriptures, which was the case. He submitted and thereby fully demonstrated overcoming evil with good.
Of course, Jesus was not reluctant to point out evil and its devastating effect on mankind at large, including the perpetrators. But when it came down to the final solution, His was not the approach that we assume is the only viable one.
We can always conclude that what Jesus did in dealing with sin is not a realistic life lesson for our health and happiness. In effect, that is precisely how the church and Christians have historically reacted to these counter intuitive words. Ironically, by assuming the path of Jesus is unworkable, we attempt to claim Jesus as Savior while rejecting His message and example as a fantasy.