From Parkersburg, West Virginia
See that none render evil for evil unto any man; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men (1 Thess. 5:15).
I worked at a secular job from April of 1972 until August of 1990, a total of just over 18 years. My former place of employment was a factory that manufactured gypsum wallboard. They mined the raw material and processed it all under one roof. During my tenure I worked at all capacities on an hourly basis. I worked in the mine, production, quality, shipping, and maintenance, I saw it all. I am saying all this to verify my credentials. I did not push a pencil. I skinned my knuckles. I saw those who, on a daily basis, rendered evil for evil as is said in our passage.
Of course, one is sure to say, these were worldly people and you expect them to have acted in a worldly fashion. There were those who engaged in fisticuffs, pulled knives, threatened each other, lied, plotted against each other, etc. It was wearisome to always deal with “one side against the other” in everything one tried to do. Whether real or imagined a grudge was held most of the time. Those who held the grudge could scarcely wait for an opportunity to retaliate. This led to a snowball effect that would go on and on with little purpose and no profit.
I think of these things from time to time. I especially think of them when brethren exhibit the same spirit. I think of them when brethren use every opportunity to lash out with some carnal retaliation against other brethren who have harmed them in a real or imagined way. I think of those I once worked with when I come to the sad conclusion that some brethren are only surpassed in rendering evil for evil by a few who are in the world. I will grant that there are few brethren who act in this manner. However those few cause others much grief and turmoil and it ought not to be so!
I am sure someone may think that I am being soft, but hear me out. Brother or sister, if a real harm has come to you, does that give you the right to retaliate? Our passage says that it does not! Jesus, whom all Christians are to imitate (1 Cor. 11:1), taught a doctrine of non-retaliation (Matt. 5:38-44) and practiced what he preached (1 Pet. 2:21-23). The thinking that “I have a right to get even ” rests on the corruption of the world and not in the gospel of Christ. If a brother or sister does legitimately harm us in some way, we are to go to that person and correct him or her (Matt. 18:15-17). We are not to plot and plan some carnal retaliation.
To quote an old expression: “Wrong cannot right the wrongs that wrong hath done” (William Arthur Dunkerley in Dies Irae – Dies Pacis). To quote an old Scripture: “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink; for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good” (Paul of Tarsus in Rom. 12:19-21).
Brethren, consider those things that have harmed you in the past or might come your way in the future. Remember to engage in the practice of our Lord and not in the practice of the world.
Guardian of Truth XXXVI: 2, p. 45
January 16, 1992