There’s an old saying, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” This is often attributed to Edmund Burke, but is a misquote. He said something to the effect that when evil men start to get together, good men must do the same, otherwise they will be a pitiable sacrifice (evil will overwhelm good). The idea both quotes capture is that good men must stand up to evil. How exactly to do this differs from situation to situation, but Scripture is clear that we must stand up for what is right. David experienced just such an issue:
But David said, “You shall not do so, my brothers, with what the Lord has given us. He has preserved us and given into our hand the band that came against us. Who would listen to you in this matter? For as his share is who goes down into the battle, so shall his share be who stays by the baggage. They shall share alike.” – 1 Samuel 30:23-24, ESV
In David’s case, he and his men has marched as part of the Philistine army in what would be a confrontation against the Israelites. Saul’s pursuit of David had driven him into the hands and protection of the enemy. Being David’s former enemy, many of the Philistine commanders didn’t trust him. They figured David would turn on them at a crucial point in the battle, giving the victory to Israel. As a result, they appealed to his commander and sponsor and that man was forced to send David and his force home.
Only when David and crew reached home they found that their stronghold had been sacked and their families and valuables carried off. So you’re looking at a group of men who had marched off to battle, then were told to go home, only to find that there was nothing to come home to. David and his men didn’t settle for this setback. They went after the attackers. However, the fatigue of all the marching meant some of the men couldn’t go on to engage in the battle. David didn’t want to let the attackers get away, so he left those men behind and pursued. The remainder went into battle and won and were able to liberate everything and everyone that had been taken. Of course, when everyone was reunified, the ones who had been able to go on and fight didn’t want the ones who stayed behind to get anything beyond their family members.
This is where David had to step in. He was the only one who had the charisma and authority to settle things. The right thing was for the entire army to regain what they had lost. There are always some who cannot make the battle. Should they be treated differently? In the case of those who tried to fight and couldn’t, no they shouldn’t. That was David’s view because it was the right one. We see a similar argument from Jesus in the New Testament with the workers hired throughout the day, all who receive the same wage.
Had David not stepped in, had he not intervened, this event could have split his army. There was a core group of troublemakers who felt they were right. To make matters worse, they were the majority. I can’t go so far to say they were being evil. A lot of us in the same situation would have been nursing similar feelings. But there’s no doubt about the fact that were causing trouble and stirring up disorder. David stood up to them and stopped it. As a result, David continued to have a strong and effective military force in the years to come.
When we see evil and wrongdoing we, as the Church, must make a stand. We cannot accept what is an abomination in God’s sight. But let me very blunt here: we cannot respond to evil or a wrongdoing with further evil or wrongdoing. Our history as the Church is full of exactly this type of response. God is not pleased with evil, regardless of who did it or why they did it. In other words, the end does not justify the means. Not when it comes to God. We must take a stand, but we must do so in a way that glorifies God. He has commanded us to repay evil with good and that doesn’t just mean being pleasant to those who seek to harm us. Be ready to confront evil and troublemakers. Do so when you are called to do so. But do so in a way that is holy and pleasing to God.