Don’t Repay Evil for Evil

See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone.1 Thessalonians 5_15 (ESV)

Retaliation is the act of repaying in kind or returning like for like when someone has been wronged. It’s getting revenge or evening the score. An eye for an eye. A tooth for a tooth. Seems reasonable, right? After all, if someone does something to harm you, why should they be allowed to get away with it? It’s only fair, isn’t it? By the world’s standards, retaliation seems to make perfect sense. But what does the Word of God say about it?

In Romans 12:9, the apostle Paul said that we should abhor evil, we should hate what is wrong. So does that mean we should seek revenge against those who do wrong to us? Should we retaliate against those who seek to do evil, to harm or to persecute us? In 1 Thessalonians 5:15, Paul wrote, “See that no one repays anyone evil for evil.” In Romans 12:17, he said the same thing, “Repay no one evil for evil.” The apostle Peter gave the same instruction in 1 Peter 3:9, “Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling.” In one translation, 1 Thessalonians 5:15 says “resist revenge.” Retaliation is not an option for those who choose to follow Christ.

So, how do we answer evil or wrongs done to us? In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also (Matthew 5:38-39).” The way in which we respond to the wrongs done to us should set us apart from the world. The world says, “seek revenge” or “even the score.” But God’s Word says we should turn the other cheek, do what is honorable in the sight of all (Romans 12:17). Rather than retaliate when we are hurt or wronged by someone, we should do good to them. And this is true not just for another believer who hurt us, but for everyone (1 Thessalonians 5:15).

The apostle Peter wrote that, rather than repaying evil for evil, we should bless those who do evil to us. He goes on to say that when we bless rather than retaliate, we also will be blessed. And the best part is that when we do good to those do wrong to us, bless those who hurt us, and do what is honorable in the sight of all, we are reflecting the character of Jesus to the world.

Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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