Blended Families Part 14: Overcoming Evil
Last week in “Blended Families Part 13: Differences Between Households,” we began looking at ways to deal with the different rules and expectations between your household and that of your ex in a God-honoring way. We looked at how to evaluate whether or not to address any situation and began talking about how to respond when you ex isn’t willing to work on issues. This week we’ll discuss more ways we can seek to live in peace and solve problems.
Last week I left off with the question, “What if, after all your planning and attempts to handle a particular situation wisely and well, your ex is not willing to work with you or solve the problem?”
I said your first reaction might be to return evil for evil or at least to withhold any good. I encouraged you to remember that is not a God-honoring option (Rom. 12.17-21), that God will not allow you to be in any situation that you cannot handle in a righteous way (1 Cor. 10.13), and that He promises to use every situation for your good and His glory by helping us become more like Christ (Rom. 8.28-29).
Now let’s look at that Romans 12 passage again:
17 Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. 18 If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. 19 Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 Therefore
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
If he is thirsty, give him a drink;
For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.”
21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
This passage instructs us to do all that we can to live at peace with others. There’s no exception for former spouses. It also says that we are not to seek revenge or return evil for evil. And unless an ex or the new spouse is doing something illegal (in which case we need to involve the proper authorities), we are to overcome evil with good.
Returning evil with evil comes naturally and returning evil with good feels awkward, at first. And there are, usually, well-meaning friends and family members telling us to do the opposite. But this is an opportunity to determine to live in ways that are pleasing to God (2 Cor. 5.9), rather than ourselves or others.
What are some ways we can overcome evil with good?
Returning Evil with Good
Ways to return evil with good:
- Take your children shopping to buy Christmas or birthday gifts for your ex and his or her spouse.
- Be flexible with visitation.
- Allow him or her to have the children for a holiday or another special day.
- Acknowledge them and, possibly, sit with them at events in which your children participate.
- Invite them to your child’s birthday celebration, graduation party, or other special event.
- Send cookies or some other treat when the children visit.
- Speak well of them to others.
- Meet a need (send a meal when someone is sick, etc.).
- Buy birthday or special occasion gifts for your children’s step-siblings.
- Pray for them.
Brainstorm other ideas and share them in the comments section.
As Much as It Depends on You
Notice verse 18 says, “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.” We are to do our part and leave the results with God. We’re not to quit because our efforts aren’t appreciated, fret about it, or expect something in return.
7 Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him;
Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way,
Because of the man who brings wicked schemes to pass.
8 Cease from anger, and forsake wrath;
Do not fret—it only causes harm (Ps. 27.7-8).
When we do something only to get a certain result, our motives are wrong. Our desire should be to please God (2 Cor. 5.9), not to get our ex-spouse to change. Things may change, but if that’s our primary motivation, we’ll quit if we don’t get the result we desire.
We, also, need to have a biblical view of success. We’re successful when we obey God. If we’re right with God in our attitudes and actions we can have peace and joy whether or not our circumstances change.
9 “As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. 10 If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. 11 “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full (Jn. 10.9-11).
A note of caution: While we should apply these principles, we always need to remember that our current spouse is our priority. Don’t pour time and energy into your relationship with your ex that rightfully belongs to your spouse and be careful to include him or her in your plans to overcome evil with good.
Prepare for Life in a Sin-Cursed World
We live in a sin-cursed world and we need to know that people will sin against us.
14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed. “And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.” 15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; 16 having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed. 17 For it is better, if it is the will of God, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil (1 Pet. 3.14-17).
So we need to prepare for it. My husband told me once that every day as he prays, he chooses in advance to forgive anyone who sins against him. We need to plan to forgive and extend grace to others whether or not they deserve it. It’s the way God deals with us. We, also, need to plan how to overcome evil with good. Even when we know we should, it won’t just happen.
One of the hardest times to do it is when we believe our children are being hurt by the other parent’s inconsiderate or sinful behavior. For example, it’s your ex’s week-end to have the kids, but he or she never shows up.
How can you prepare for it yourself? If you have plans for the week-end and you know your ex is undependable, have a back-up plan. If not, have an alternative plan for you and your children. It can be as simple as a movie or game night.
But how should you respond when your children ask why their dad or mom never showed up? Instead of either defending or putting your ex down, you have an opportunity to teach them both good communication skills, how to respond when others sin against you.
First, help them choose to believe the best (1 Cor. 13.7), to give the other parent the benefit of the doubt about the reasons. Then let them know they need to talk to their mom or dad about why they didn’t come (Matt. 18.15). Teach them how to respond if the answer isn’t what they want to hear and brainstorm with them ways they can overcome evil with good in the midst of hurt and disappointment.
These are challenges many blended families face. It’s important to remember that God’s promises are true in the lives of your children and not just you. He won’t give them more than they can handle in a God-honoring way (1 Cor. 10.13) and He has a plan to use it for good in their lives (Rom. 8.28-29).
Don’t allow your children to develop a victim mentality. Teach them that since God has allowed this in their lives, He will use it to help them grow. Show them from God’s Word that they are responsible for their actions no matter what anyone else does (Prov. 20.11). Study Romans 12.17-21 with them and talk about how they can apply those truths.
If you have a blended family, how do you overcome evil with good in your situation? Are there some principles or ideas you have applied since you started reading this series? I hope you’ll share your thoughts with us.
Next week we’ll talk about some additional ways we can help our children grow as part of a blended family.
*Some information in this series was developed from a Bible study by Jeff & Amy Baker.
Some of the subjects I’ll cover in future blogs:
Blended families in the Bible
Damage control—healing the mistakes
Dealing with in-laws and out-laws
Helping your child be part of the “other” blended family
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