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Good for Evil

January 25, 2016

How do you respond to someone who does evil against you? When you are sinned against what should your reaction be? 1 Thessalonians 5:15 describes how the Christian should reply when another sins against him. “See that none render evil for evil.” In Matthew 5 Jesus says much the same thing during the sermon on the mount. We understand and, for the most part, try to practice one part of this command. We know it is wrong to seek revenge when one does wrong to us. We teach our kids “she hit me first” is not a valid justification for socking your sister. We know it is unchristian to swear at a person just because he swore at you first. We know that we cannot actively retaliate when someone does wrong against us. This is all true and right application of this verse.

This command is not just against retaliating with evil. The prohibition is against any evil reply. Do not respond with any kind of evil when another does evil to you. What else are evil responses? Gossiping about the person is sinful. Running around telling others about the awful actions of the one who sinned is an evil response. Resentment returns evil for evil. You must not harbor well hidden animosity, distrust or disfavor of another because of the wrong done. Disregard of another is another evil we tend to return towards others. The attitude that doesn’t care one way or another. It may be polite, it may not. It just doesn’t care about the person. A professional disattchment is evil. The attitude that we don’t have to like each other, but we will be civil towards one another while we are at church is not righteous. Any response which seeks revenge or cuts off the relationship is one which replies with evil to wrong done against us.

Paul does not just say not to repay evil with evil. Paul also says to be always pursuing that which is good. In 1 Thessalonians 5:15 Paul is talking about relationships within the church. He has already said to warn the disorderly, encourage the discouraged, support the weak and be patient toward all. As you live together in the church community others will sin against you. Do not respond to their sin with evil, but with good. Hunt down the good that you can do to them. This is what Jesus is saying when He says to bless them that curse you and pray for them which scorn you. The Christian response is always more than the absence of evil. The Christian response is one of goodness in return. Paul says to feed your hungry enemy and give drink to your thirsty foe. Though you have been sinned against, you cannot neglect another’s spiritual well being. You cannot refuse to minister grace to them. You must continue to serve them for their good to edifiying. You must be patient with them, uphold them, correct them, encourage them and actively love them. The right reply when sinned against is to do good in return.

Some read words like this and imagine a sweet, forced smile kind of response that overlooks any sin and accepts all evil as a matter of course. Turning a blind eye to evil is not good but is only replying to evil with another form of evil. Goodness does not accept or consent to evil. Goodness opposes evil with grace and compassion. Chasing after goodness is the unending pursuit for that which is excellent and edifying. When the unruly one lashes out respond with a gracious warning. When the discouraged drops the ball and leaves you holding the bag respond with words of encouragement. When the weak falls down on the job or falls into sin don’t give a harsh retort. Come alongside and help him back up. Though many specific applications could be given, the basic principle is this: when you are sinned against, actively and aggressively seek the response that will be promote holiness in the sinner’s life.

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