Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. — Romans 12: 17
Let us take the example set by Jesus and, with the help of God, try and repay evil with good.
In chapter 12 of Romans Apostle Paul describes the duties of a Christian. Among these pieces of advice is our Bible text. We should not forget that Paul was educated according to the law of retaliation—an eye for an eye—which had the aim of causing one’s neighbour the same pain that he inflicted on us. Repaying evil with evil was therefore something that was even approved of by law. That is why Paul makes an effort to explain that the time of grace has started, introduced by Jesus through His sacrifice, this being the perfect example of love towards our neighbour.
There are biblical accounts in which we can see that not everybody made use of the legitimacy provided by the power or the law.
- When King David was cursed and had stones thrown after him by Shimei—one of Saul’s relatives—he spared the man’s life and even said that there must be a reason for God allowing him to do this (2 Samuel 16: 7–12). We have to accept that there are different views and opinions and have to learn to accept criticism. This can be helpful for us.
- Joseph had to face a very difficult situation when he learned that Mary was pregnant. He had the law on his side and could have disgraced her publicly, but he was a just and Godfearing man, and thought carefully about what he should do. He decided to deal with the matter in private. God blessed that decision and let him know he had nothing to be ashamed of (Matthew 1: 19–21). Let us not be prejudiced or act too hastily, but take the time to think about the best path to take. God knows our thoughts, and when these are directed to providing good to our neighbour, He will also assist us.
- The law did not favour the adulterous woman either, but even here Jesus showed that the love to our neighbour has to be seen from the perspective and awareness of our own imperfections. Let us not look at the speck in our brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in our own eye (Matthew 7: 3).
These three examples show us that it is possible to leave aside legitimate reasons and give way to the feeling of understanding and put ourselves in the shoes of the person who has done us wrong.
The greatest example was given by Jesus on the cross when He asked His Father to forgive those who had condemned Him. He not only forgave them, but also became their advocate when He said, “… for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23: 34).
And finally …
When you “repay” someone you are taking revenge and returning like for like, the consequence being that evil begets more evil. It is important that we are courageous and break through this cycle of evil with God’s help and try to repay evil with good. Let us be strong and insistent when we ask the Lord in the Lord’s Prayer, “Deliver us from the evil one,” for then He will help us.
* Thoughts from the Chief Apostle adapted for the divine service held on Sunday, 26 July 2015 at Midrand Congregation.
Share your thoughts with us in the comments section:
- What do you think it means to not repay evil with evil toward someone who constantly wants revenge?
- How and when do you address an issue with someone who wants revenge?