See that no one pays back evil for evil, but always try to do good to each other and to all people.
1 Thessalonians 5:15 NLT
The teaching of Jesus pierced through the darkness of pious religious tradition and political revenging tyranny. The Jews promoted guilt and piety, while the Romans perfected guile and politics. It was common practice to “chew someone out” or “eat them alive”. American novelist Alfred Hitchcock wrote, “Revenge is sweet and not fattening.”
Paul shared a different thought. With a foundation of grace and goodness, he taught Jesus’ truth of reconciliation and not revenge, good instead of evil, compassion instead of condemnation. Many in the first century were impacted by this influence. Roman General Marcus Aurelius wrote, “The best revenge is to be unlike him who performed the injury.”
Say No To Pay Back. In his closing comments to the Thessalonians, Paul insisted that responses between rivals be no longer evil. Pay back is no longer an option. As Christ followers, we need to get over getting even. Moses wrote in Israel’s legal code, “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against a fellow Israelite, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am The Lord.” (Lev 19:18 NLT). Our responses are not in retaliation . . . they are honorable, not hurtful. In his letter to believers in Rome, Paul wrote, “Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all.” (Rom 12:17 ESV). This kind of avenging is rooted in anger. We are reminded, “anger gives a foothold to the devil.” (Eph 4:27 NLT).
Revenge and retaliation are not our response.
Say Yes To Pay Forward. Full compensation for revenge requires a different kind of currency. Instead of paying back with evil, we are to pay forward with good. Paul reminds us, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” (Rom 12:18 ESV). Jesus gives a new instruction, “But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!” (Matt 5:44 NLT) Martin Luther King, Jr. said. “Man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love.” This kind of response extends to our circle of friends and to our community in full. Peter reminds us of the benefit of blessing, “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.” (1 Pet 3:9 NIV).
Goodness and grace are our response.
God grace is evidenced when we goodness is extended.
He blesses us when we bless others.
His light shines when we show His love.
Today, instead of giving someone a piece of our mind, let’s give them a place in our heart. That kind of response will be a defining moment.