Tit for tat. Eye for an eye. Tooth for a tooth. That’s our default preset many times. We are challenged today to repay evil with good. Ahh… the rubber is meeting the road today. God says our job is to love and show compassion. His job is dealing with their response…
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.”
13 Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? 14 But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.”
I think everything is fine until we get to evil and insult. Everything will like-mindedness and sympathy and love and compassion and even humility goes swimmingly as I read it through. All good. Until we get to evil and insult.
We have an idea that showing sympathy and love is part of a reciprocal structure of you loving me and vice versa. In practice, the virtues of love and compassion take their feet on the battlefield of love and evil. You see, my love and compassion is only tested when someone is evil or insulting toward me.
Jesus once said that anyone can love someone who loves them. Loving the lover earns no credit or reward (Matthew 5:46). Our faith is tested in loving the unlovely. It’s in loving those who are acting out evil in our world and toward others. It’s in loving those who insult us.
Enter humility (verse 8) and seeking peace (verse 11). These virtues in practice are righteousness-makers (verse 12), which garner the ears and attentiveness of the Lord. We want to turn our faces against those who do evil, yet God says he has that covered (verse 12). My job is to love them, and God’s job is to change or deal with them. His job. Not my job.
Keep loving. Keep doing good. Even through suffering for doing good. Even under their threats. Do not be frightened.
There are a couple of people toward whom I want to change my reaction and interaction. I want to live righteously, focused on my side of the equation. Love and sympathy and compassion. And I will let God handle the other side. How about you?