In our quest for peace within the Body of Christ, in working to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, we have discovered that we must be discerning. We must know the difference between right and wrong and we must be able to differentiate between sound and unsound doctrine if we are to be at peace with one another. Further, as we learned yesterday, we are expected in using our discernment to help other believers as they battle sin and temptation (see An Exhortation Towards Peace). We are to encourage growth from milk to solid food as we comfort and disciple each other (see Exercising Our Senses).
The summary points that we studied from 1 Thessalonians 5:14 made it clear that we are to warn the unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, and be patient with all. As we do these things we must also keep 1 Thessalonians 5:15 in mind. While we are patiently serving, comforting, and encouraging one another we must never ever react to evil with evil.
Remember that the word evil means “that which causes harm.” And we know from experience that people will hurt us and we will hurt them! It is inevitable in relationships between fallen beings. We will hurt and be hurt. Even as we are growing. Even as we are being sanctified. Believers will have disagreements with other believers.
Paul and Barnabas provide an example where even an Apostle and his traveling companions can have a fall out, a disagreement that is so sharp that two people go, for a time, their separate ways (Acts 15:36-41).
Imagine then as we are striving to encourage one another to peace how we will react when we are confronted – rightly or wrongly – by those who are walking along with us. In truth we must learn not to react! We must instead respond. To react is to undertake a reflexive course of action at times without even thinking. If we think we are about to be hit we move to block the blow or even to prepare to hit back. Yet if we are walking in the Spirit we must be ready to respond. To make a calculated move in response to an action. Someone starts to try and hit us and we dodge the blow – we move out of the way.
Here we see that as we work to learn to respond instead of react we must keep in mind this command: “See that no one renders evil for evil to anyone”. No matter who it is, if someone is evil toward us, seeking to harm us, we must not react in such a way that has the intention of harming them back or harming them instead. We must never plot evil against someone who has hurt us. That simply is not the Christian thing to do! For if we are to keep the peace within the Body, when another member of that Body harms us we must forgive, love, and work for reconciliation. We cannot allow ourselves to hold a grudge, become bitter, or brood and plot getting them back.
The verse goes on to tell us that are to “always pursue what is good both for yourselves and for all”. Pursue, chase after, desire what is good – that which promotes health. Do we work toward having healthy relationships even with those people who rub us the wrong way and irritate us? Do we make it a point to always pursue what is good for all?
It is easy to pursue what is good for us, right? But in truth, the things that are really good for us will be good for others also. So if we are pursuing something and think it is for our good but it will bring harm to another, then it really is not good for us or for anyone.
See where discernment fits in here? How can we know if we are rendering good or evil toward someone if we cannot tell the difference between good and evil? How can we pursue what is good for others if we do not even understand what good is?
No wonder the world is confused. The world teaches us to look out for number one, but in the mean time not to infringe on anyone else’s rights. You’ve doubtless heard the phrase – “Well, it did not hurt anyone else.” Or even those who engage in evil thinking that as long as it only hurts them then it is okay. How ludicrous. How selfish! How undiscerning.
We must not render evil for evil but instead pursue what is good for us and for others. Today, if you are hurt by someone, think about your response! Deny your flesh. Delay your reaction. Think through your response. And render good even to those who render evil to you! The Bible tells us that then it is that we will overcome evil with good.