TONY ELDER: Cultivate good in your heart to overcome hatred

Cultivate good in your heart to overcome hatred

Did you hear about the special deal offered last weekend by a well-known chain of nurseries? I'm referring to the type of place that raises and sells plants, not the kind that takes care of small children.

At all of their store locations they were giving away packets of ladybugs. I understand that each bag contained about 150 of those helpful insects, with the expectation that more than half a million of the bugs would be distributed over the two-day period.

Those nurseries were promoting ladybugs as a beneficial creature that can help keep one's garden healthy. How does it do that? By preying on the so-called "bad bugs" which can do damage to the plants.

Of course, there are other ways to get rid of pests, but some of those methods will kill off good insects too. Using the ladybugs is a more natural form of pest control.

With my limited knowledge of such matters, I assumed that 150 ladybugs would be sufficient for an entire small garden. However, I heard an expert suggest that one of those packets was about the right amount to cover merely two plants. I guess it's the principle that if you inundate the bad with the good, the bad will get wiped out.

As I thought about it, that seems to be a biblical principle as well. Whether you're talking about the evil in the world around us or the sin which too easily shows up in the gardens of our own hearts, one way to conquer the bad is by cultivating the good.

The Apostle Paul put it this way -- "Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good" (Romans 12:21). He warned against using the deadly pesticide of personal vengeance against one's enemy. It might hurt the other person, but it will also do damage to our own hearts. Instead we should do good -- "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him drink" (12:20).

Rather than simply focusing on ridding ourselves of the bad things, we would do well to try to fill our lives with the good. Paul instructed his young co-worker, Timothy, to flee such evils as youthful lusts and the love of money. But at the same time, he encouraged him to pursue righteousness, godliness, faith and love.

The more we fill our lives with godly, pure attitudes and actions, the less room there will be for any kind of ungodliness or impurity. If we inundate our daily circumstances with a spirit of steadfast faith, it's less likely that doubt and fear will have an opportunity to take root and grow. If we allow the Lord to fill our hearts with love for others, it will eat up any hatred, envy, bitterness or other unloving attitudes we might be harboring.

If we're overflowing with devotion to God, what chance is there for anything else to usurp His rightful top spot in our hearts?

On the one hand, we do need to identify the harmful pests in our souls and seek God's cleansing. But at the same time, let's be filling that space with the beneficial qualities that will assist with the removal of the bad.

Think about some particular "bad bug" that keeps showing up in your life, spoiling the good fruit which God desires to grow in your garden. What positive quality do you need to pursue in its place to keep your soul healthy? Instead of expending all our energy on trying to wipe out the bad, let's be sure to spend just as much time cultivating the good.

The Rev. Tony W. Elder is pastor of Wesley Community Fellowship Church. He can be reached at 770-483-3405 or by email at RevTElder@aol.com.