“Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men.” Romans 12:17
Nasty words. Evil motives. Harmful actions. These are only a few reasons we grow up with a distrust toward others. These entered this world way back in the garden when Adam and Eve sinned and have grown into horrific monsters that corrupt every human being that is ever born into this world.
We have grown up with a deep inner belief that we must fend for ourselves, exacting evil for evil, harm for harm, cutting words for cutting words. And that is how we lived… until Jesus came.
Two thousand years ago, Jesus nailed our sinful flesh to the cross setting us free from the urge to obey sin. Now He beckons us to do as He did, to live His life in this evil-exacting world.
What exactly does He call us to do when people hurt us?
“Repay no one evil for evil….”
We are not to follow our natural instinct to give back evil for every evil done. We are to follow Jesus, “who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously.” (1 Peter 2: 23)
The funny thing is, we always look at that and think our situation is the exception to the rule. But this verse specifically commands us to repay no one with evil. “No one” means there are no exceptions to this rule!
As a matter of fact, the word for evil in this verse goes all the way down to the feelings and thoughts of someone’s heart towards someone else. This means that when our heart is urging us to view another person through the lens of harm, evil and revenge, we are not to obey its call.
The rest of the verse takes it a step further.
“…Have regard for good things…”
The word for “have regard” means to think beforehand or to consider. We need to foresee what good can come out of evil, consider in advance and provide truth for ourselves to cling to. Right now, arm yourself with the reality that “all things work together for good…” (Romans 8:28).
A pure and loving heart is forged in the fires of trial. We won’t really know the power of the love of God until every ounce of our own selfish love is squeezed out of us, and one of the ways this is accomplished is through hurt and pain. We are to plan to let God use whatever is happening or will happen in our lives for good, not just for ourselves, but for others.
“…in the sight of all men.”
Unfair treatment is a stage on which we as believers are given the opportunity to display the reality of God’s goodness in the midst of evil. The spotlight of harm is turned onto us and we are given a choice: display the ugliness of self, or show off the beauty of Christ’s love. It is then that all eyes are on us waiting to see how Christ really acts inside God’s child. Will we die to ourselves and let Him live? Or will we deny Him before men and defend ourselves?
This all seems impossible, right? Yet Christ doesn’t call us to a path He’s never walked on. Jesus did all these things. On that cross, He foresaw the good that would come of it. He could have called legions of angels to rescue Him, but He let man nail Him there. His Father forsook Him, darkness surrounded Him, and the worst of evils done to Him; horrific beatings, whippings, cruel mocking… these were but a few of the sufferings He endured.
Jesus looked, and “…for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross…” (Hebrews 12:2) The joy of giving us the opportunity to know the love of God and to be reconciled to Him. God’s love was made known to man through the suffering of His Son.
The beauty of it is, He also doesn’t call us to walk that path in and of ourselves. He’s calling us to die and let Him live His actions, responses and thoughts inside of and through us.
Let’s take every opportunity to step back and let Christ’s love and life be poured through us; for in reality, pain and evil are our opportunities to put the spotlight on Him before a watching world.