“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Romans 12:21
Bob Browning was one of my best high school buddies. I’m sure every one of my classmates would agree he was just a great guy – fun and funny, mischievous but not in a malicious way, outgoing, brilliant and full of ambition. He had talent dripping off him, a young man destined to go places. Bob’s home life, though, was a different story. His mother had taken her own life when he was a small child leaving him to be raised by his father in a lonely old farm house far out in the countryside. And while I don’t have many facts, based on the few encounters I witnessed and what Bob confided in me I have reason to believe his dad may have been abusive from time to time. In spite of that I never knew Bob to show any resentment toward his father or anyone else – angry perhaps from time to time, but never resentful. When he did confide in me about the difficulties he had he would always emphasize in no uncertain terms that he loved his father deeply. And in the end I am convinced Bob’s dad loved him too.
When my friend Bob was in college he was diagnosed with cancer. It was a rough ride, but he never gave up hope, married his high school sweetheart, and continued to zealously pursue his ambitions. But despite his valiant battle the cancer won, and my high school classmates and I lost one of our dearest friends – at too young an age.
Benjamin Franklin once wrote, “Doing an injury puts you below your enemy; revenging one makes you but even with him; [but] forgiving one sets you above him.” Bob Browning could also be given credit for those words, not for writing them but by the way he lived. He certainly never injured a sole in his life; and I never once sensed any desire for revenge. But he knew how to forgive. I know for a fact he forgave his father over and over. I’m pretty sure he must have forgiven his mother for leaving him motherless. And I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if he even forgave the cancer that took his life.
Bob did not allow himself to be overcome by evil, but overcame evil with good. As I’ve thought about my friend through the years I think that lesson was his gift to me, and to all of us. It was his legacy, and what a great legacy to leave!