Near the end of what we now call First Thessalonians, the apostle Paul wrote several things that are important in the life of a Christian. One of those things is “See that none render evil for evil unto any man; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men” (1 Thess. 5:15).
It should go without saying that it is never good to do that which is evil. However, it might be extremely tempting to “get back” at someone when he has done something “evil” to you. Christians have to develop a resistance to such impulses. Our greatest example of not rendering “evil for evil” is obviously Jesus. During and after the cruel treatment that He received, Jesus could still say, “…Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do…” (Luke 23:34). Have we matured to that point? Do we still seek for a person’s good even after he has mistreated me?
This principle is echoed numerous times in the New Testament. Jesus taught, “Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away. Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matt. 5:38-48).
Also, when writing to the church located in Rome, Paul included, “Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good” (Rom. 12:17-21).
Then there is the time that Peter wrote, “Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous: Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing. For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile: Let him eschew evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and ensue it. For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil” (1 Pet. 3:8-12).
Can you imagine what good will be done when we implement this truth into our lives? The church of Christ will be known as loving, caring and compassionate people. Our communities will see that we are sincere followers of Christ, and not just those that “talk a good game, but don’t live it”. It is even quite possible that some of the ones to whom we do good will be receptive to the saving power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. So let us take the challenge to heart! Let us decide that we will do that which is right even before someone does us wrong. If that way of thinking and living is already a part of my life, then I will not have to wait to see my reaction. I will know already that I can think as Jesus thought, “…Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do…” (Luke 23:34).
~ Corey Barnette