By Joe R. Price
Render to no man evil for evil. Take thought for things honorable in the sight of all men. Avenge not yourselves, beloved, but give place unto the wrath of God: for it is written, Vengeance belongeth unto me; I will recompense, saith the Lord. But if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him to drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good (Rom. 12:17-21).
It hurts when people wrong us. That is especially true when we are wronged by one whom we least suspect would injure us. Jesus experienced this sort of unfair treatment time and again. One of his apostles betrayed him, another denied knowing him, and all of them scattered from him when he was arrested. The religious leaders of the Jews, who should have rejoiced in his coming, condemned him to death. Indeed, Jesus was “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” (Isa. 53:3). Yet, the Scriptures say that “when he was reviled, (he) reviled not again; when he suffered, threatened not” (I Pet 2:23). What restraint! What love!
Jesus Is Our Example
Jesus is our example of how to respond when we are wronged and mistreated by others. “For hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that ye should follow his steps” (1 Pet. 2:21). Sure, it hurt Jesus when others mistreated him. Of him David prophetically said, “For it was not an enemy that reproached me; Then I could have borne it: Neither was it he that hated me that did magnify himself against me: Then I would have hid myself from him: But it was thou, a man mine equal. My companion, and my familiar” (Psa. 55:12-13; cf. 41:9). Jesus suffered many wrongs at the hands of friends (and enemies). How he reacted is our pattern to follow. It will take all of the faith that we have within us to follow in his footsteps.
And yet, Jesus has not given us an impossible task. This business of “turning the other cheek” (Matt. 5:38-39; Lk. 6:27-30) is the essence of “loving your enemies” (Matt. 5:44). It is the embodiment of the golden rule: “And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise” (Lk. 6:31). Christians must not wrong the wrongdoer. We must not render evil for evil (Rom. 12:17), even when we are tempted to feel justified in doing so. Such conduct is not from God.
Following Jesus’ Example
How can the victims of evil possibly return good for evil? In Matthew 5:38-48 and Luke 6:27-36, Jesus teaches us how.
1. Unselfishness (Matt. 5:38-42). Is not this the essential quality of turning the other cheek? We must devalue ourselves in our own estimation in order to ever be able to value the evildoer . . . especially when he perpetrates his evil against us!
2. Love (Matt. 5:43-48). Loving our enemies may be one of the most difficult things we are called upon to do. Yet, to do so is to be a “son of (our) Father who is in heaven. ” Remember, love does not keep a scorecard of wrongs committed against it. Love “taketh not account of evil” (1 Cor. 13:5).
3. Prayer (Lk. 6:28). Here, Jesus said to “pray for them that despitefully use you.” Those who treat us abusively need our prayers, and we are following Christ’s example when we pray for our enemies (and mean it): “Father, forgive them: for they know not what they do.” The sinner needs our prayers, not our animosity and contempt.
4. Do good (Lk. 6:27). It is one thing to pray for the one who has wronged us and to not keep a record so that we can “get even.” It is another thing to take the positive approach by responding to him (or her) with kind actions. Jesus went about doing good to all (Acts 10:38). The Father’s sunshine and rain blesses the evil and the good (Matt. 5:45). Similarly, we are to be doers of good to those who hate us. What a challenge to be like Christ!
5. Be merciful (Lk. 6:36). We all need the mercy of God, for we are all sinners. But, when someone sins against us, that fact tends to be obscured by our pain. We lash out rather than extend mercy. We should never forget that we, too, will only reach heaven by the mercy of God. We should give sinners that which we require (Matt. 9:10-13).
The next time you are wronged, instead of rendering evil for evil, try Jesus’ approach. In doing so, you need not despair (Lk. 6:35). Jesus’ way is best, whether the sinner appreciates it or whether he continues to take advantage of you (Matt. 5:11-12). You see, you will be “sons of the Most High: for he is kind toward the unthankful and evil” (Lk. 6:35). Overcome evil with good!
Guardian of Truth XXXVI: 22, p. 683
November 15, 1992