Some evils in this world are nameless and faceless. People suffer with the calamities of life -death,disease, accidents, etc. But sometimes the evil we suffer is at the hands of another. Sometimes, we are oppressed by a person full of fear, full of venom, full of bitterness, full of wounds too numerous for even them to number. They seek to punish us, to make us pay for ever crossing them; they seek to control us, to intimidate us, and often they are so good at doing it that they hide it under the denial of a smile and words that appear kind and genuine.
How does one live in this situation? When they've got you in a corner and there really isn't much of anything you can do about it, when they have taken everything from you and yet they still won't leave you alone -they still seek to control your every move, demand accounting for every action as if they own you and will make you pay for ever inch you move in a direction they do not like, what do you do? The temptation is to hate them, to hate them with blinding fury. The temptation is to call for God's justice to rain fire down upon them and to sit in ashes until (and if) that happens.
But Bonhoeffer is right. If that is the final word in you, the evil has won. Their venom has ignited only venom in you. Their hate has resulted in hate. Their desire to punish and control has only wrought in you a desire to punish and control in return. For what is it that you demand from God and why do you demand it? You demand God do it your way. You want that control. You have become like them.
This does not mean you should not stand up for justice when God calls you to. But there is a vast difference between seeking to stand up for what is right and demanding to stop and control an evil person. The former is about the activity of standing up for what is right because it is right; it is about the motivation, the desire to please God and leave the results in His hands. The latter is about you, about your control, about your demand for justice, about you getting the outcomes and ends that you demand. If you find yourself saying, "I angrily and bitterly refuse to happily live in a world where this person is free to live so wickedly," then you know you are being overcome with the very evil they perpetrate against you.
Only when you let go of control of them, when you give up the ends and outcomes to God, when you hand them over to God -then and only then- can you begin to see them in a different light. Only then can you see them as the tortured souls they are, as ones for whom Christ died, as ones in grip of selfishness and evil.
You say, "But I can't. God must stop them!" Can you see? This is now between you and God. It has created enmity between you and Him. You demand control of a soul that only God has a right over. "But what of what they are doing and have done to me?" This does not mean that their evil is no longer evil. It means that you free yourself, that you shield yourself with good, and that you make room for God's wrath.
This is how you stand on the outside of evil -something Jesus was very adept at doing. At Jesus' trial, for example, though He was in the midst of their kangaroo court and their false accusations He in essence stood outside of their little world, their little game, defiantly refusing to join in and play by the rules of the world. The evil person wants you to come into their little bubble where there is contention and retribution and violence and control and manipulation and hatred.
As it says in Romans 12:
"17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 On the contrary:
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”
21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good."