Good For Evil

Posted: July 10th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

Most Bible students remember the teaching of Jesus that commands his disciples “to turn the other cheek.” In the Sermon on the Mount, He called to mind the teaching of Moses’ law which demanded that Jews as a matter of justice exact an “eye for an eye” and a “tooth for a tooth.”  He then taught His disciples to the contrary: if a man “smites thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also” (Matt 5:39).

This certainly, at first reading, would be viewed by His disciples as a “hard saying”—one that is difficult to accept and practice. And it is. But as the years pass—maybe as a result of age, physical weakness, or a natural tendency to be cowardly—I have found this command to be less demanding. I seldom build up or feel any urge to retaliate and get even when I feel I have been wronged. Where I do struggle, however, is at the next level to which both Peter and Paul take this instruction of the Lord.

The apostle Paul when he reaches the practical application of the gospel in his epistle to the Romans instructs them to “render to no man evil for evil” and then goes to another level and commands these brethren: “if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him to drink” and “be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good” (Rom 12:17,20,21). Peter also writes of disciples being “loving,” “tenderhearted,” ”humble minded” and rather than “rendering evil for evil” or “reviling for reviling” to turn away from evil and render a “blessing” to those who persecute and reproach them (1 Pet 3:8-11).

What both apostles tell us reveals what the love of Christ, who died for the ungodly, demands of His disciples. As followers of Jesus who must walk in the footsteps of their master, disciples must act with positive good and loving kindness toward their enemies. With many brethren it would be fine if they could pray for their enemies, as Jesus taught His disciples (Matt 5:44), and then leave them to themselves and their own thoughts and feelings. Few of us would feel a need to harm our enemies or to get even by rendering evil to them.

But are we able to move to the next level? Can we reach out to them with positive acts of kindness to show them the love of our Master and Savior?  Gospel preachers, likely more than others, have had to face brethren who are angry, who want them fired, and who say and do unkind things to advance their agenda of getting rid of the preacher.

Multiple other reasons create faction and bitterness in the lives and hearts of brethren toward one another. Incidents likewise occur in the world of sinners where saints must live and conduct themselves in an exemplary manner. I personally have found little problem overcoming bitterness and petitioning God for them and my relationship with them.  But the next level of reaching out with positive and loving acts of kindness to mend and reestablish relationships that might open up opportunities to influence enemies spiritually and bring him to Christ is one that challenges a disciple’s maturity in Christ.

Rendering “good” for “evil,” brethren, is the ultimate challenge and meaning of love and maturity and perfection in Christ (Matt 5:43-46). If your enemy is naked, clothe him; if he is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink. Love, William Barclay writes, is “undefeatable good will” and “unconquerable benevolence”—a devotion to mankind, including enemies, that no evil deed or spiteful act must be allowed to remove from a disciple’s heart or life.

-L. A.