8 Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. 9 Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. 10 For,
“Whoever would love life
and see good days
must keep their tongue from evil
and their lips from deceitful speech.
11 They must turn from evil and do good;
they must seek peace and pursue it.
12 For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous
and his ears are attentive to their prayer,
but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”
Repaying Evil With Blessing
If you repay evil with blessing, it will often be regarded as sarcastic and lead to more pain. When you repay evil with blessing, it might empower the oppressor to subjugate you more fully and with a harder hand. If you repay evil with blessing, it is naive and senseless. These are some of the objections that I can hear around me as we look at repaying evil with blessing. There is a strong connection in this regard to forgiveness. If we respond to injustice with forgiveness, then justice will be done. I will lose control, I will not be safe, and I will not be accepted for who I am. When we perceive evil in others we want it eradicated so that we are protected and we are able to live without fear. Why doesn’t God just, then remove the evil so that I can feel safe and secure?
There are a couple of important points to note. When we repay evil with judgment and revenge, we do so to protect ourselves without thought of our own evil. We do not see ourselves as having any residual evil from the ‘old man’ that we were before we began following Christ. Also, repaying evil with evil lacks faith. It wrests control away from God and seeks to manage our own lives with safety and not faith as the primary goal. We must act in a way that love demands. This means forgiving those who harm us and treat us with disrespect, remembering in the process that we are being forgiven a debt that is immeasurably more than the offense that we are asked to forgive. I believe that much in the way of unforgiveness is connected with both fear and also self-righteousness. To forgive, though is not to be reconciled necessarily. As much as it is up to us, we should live at peace with everyone. However, sometimes people will put us in real danger or doggedly estrange themselves from us. We give control of that over to God, too.
Each believer must understand deeply that they are worth every bit as much as every other human that God has created. However, they need to then put their rights to one side and then consider others before themselves. This is hard when you live in fear of the other person. It doesn’t mean letting the person do whatever they wish. It means doing whatever you perceive to be the best thing for the other person as well as yourself. God designed the world so that we would have intrapersonal and interpersonal peace. Harmony in the community is built by people who are harmoniously attuned with God. From a fearless position of faith such people can make arrangements to follow through on what they believe to be best for the community. Even some very hard decisions, like turning a loved one over to the police, can be a profound act of love motivated by a desire for redemption.
Let’s not foster contempt and sadistic delight in our hearts. Let’s foster desire for peace and love. Let’s sacrifice ourselves in order to achieve it.
There are some people of whom I am a bit afraid. When I try and understand why, I see a lack of confidence in my own opinions or a lack of assurance of my acceptance by you, God. Help me to see how to make our relationship secure so that I do not fear others’ mastery over me. Help me to fear no-one and to love people from a strong position of self-acceptance from which I can entertain change and a more counter-cultural acceptance of others.
- What should ‘you’ be?
- How does harmony permeate the passage?
- How might evil escalate in relationships?
- Which relationships that you have could be more harmonious?
- How could you sacrifice yourself (without compromising the truth) in order to bring more harmony?