New American Standard Bible (©1995)
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
GOD'S WORD® Translation (©1995)
Don't let evil conquer you, but conquer evil with good.
King James Bible
Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.
Bible in Basic English
Do not let evil overcome you, but overcome evil by good.
Young's Literal Translation
Be not overcome by the evil, but overcome, in the good, the evil.
The Greek word translated "overcome" is transliterated nikao:
1. to conquer
a. to carry off the victory, come off victorious
2. of Christ, victorious over all His foes
3. of Christians, that hold fast their faith even unto death against the power of their foes, and temptations and persecutions
when one is arraigned or goes to law, to win the case, maintain one's cause
The Greek word translated as "evil" is transliterated kakos, giving us this astonishingly mundane definition:
1. of a bad nature
a. not such as it ought to be
2. of a mode of thinking, feeling, acting
a. base, wrong, wicked
3. troublesome, injurious, pernicious, destructive, baneful
It's interesting to note that this scripture does not say, "Do not overcome evil with evil." It says do not be overcome with evil.
I've often said, "Evil is never the servant; it is always the master", meaning that if you think you are using evil means to achieve good ends, you're being deceived. Evil isn't merely a concept; it's a metaphysical reality that you get caught up in, to your great peril. And if you look at people who committed great acts of evil, you'll nearly always find they either started out with good intentions, or started out with so petty and trivial a wrong that it hardly seems worth even chiding somebody over. Psychopaths like Ted Bundy start out with just sexual fantasies -- which they then are overcome with a compulsion to carry out. Just a warning -- playing with evil is playing with fire in a very Big League way. And this Scripture is a warning not against necessary huge and spectacular evils, but of badness that may be simply "troublesome, injurious", or "not as it ought to be" to as bad as "pernicious" -- but weighing in at the lightweight end of the evil scale.
And this is, after all, how women often end up on the abortion table: the sin of indulging in illicit thoughts, that lead to sexual sins, that lead to abortion as a cover-up or supposed remedy.
Let us go on and look at the word translated "good" -- transliterated agathos. I was somewhat taken aback with what this word means. I was expecting some profound meaning of "good" involving God's power, perhaps. But, just as surprisingly mundane as our word for evil is our word here for good:
1. of good constitution or nature
2. useful, salutary
3. good, pleasant, agreeable, joyful, happy
4. excellent, distinguished
5. upright, honourable
We are to avoid being overcome by evil not merely by the Lord's power -- though other Scriptures tell us to rely upon His strength -- but through ordinary mundane goodness: by being useful, by that which is good, pleasant, and agreeable, by being honorable and by simple happiness.
So what can we do to apply this to fighting abortion?
It seems, first of all, that we are to be good ourselves -- to refrain from getting entangled in even petty evil.
Then, we are to be useful. Are we helping our neighbor?
We are to be pleasant, agreeable, joyful folk, of good cheer. This one can be tough when you're seeing how horrible abortion is -- the slaughtered children, the wounded and distraught mothers. "The joy of the Lord is our strength", though. We can pray for the power of good cheer in the face of darkness. And it's possible. Betsy ten Boom managed to shine light around her even in a Nazi prison, with simple good cheer and little homey touches that made the cell a pleasant as possible place for the women who shared it with her. Remember that there is spiritual and practical value in merely keeping your own spirits up, and bolstering the spirits of those around you. And in this battle, it's of practical import as well. A cheered woman is one who is feeling hope, and she is not as likely to get suckered in by evil and wind up on the abortion table.
Again, these Scripture studies aren't meant to be exhaustive, merely to provide a bit of something to chew on.