By nature we often are resistant to offer kindness in
exchange for hatred. When I am
challenged, my first inward reaction is to challenge back. When I am wronged, my first impulse is to
want to wrong back. Why such an
impulse? Isn’t “getting even” just and
right? Let’s look at these passages in
the Old Testament. Read Exodus 21:23ff;
24:17-22; Deuteronomy 19:15-21. Keeping in mind that these laws are holy and good (1 Timothy 1:8-11;
Romans 7:12, 14), discuss how they were beneficial in establishing
public justice and preventing private retaliation and vengeance. Were any of
these harsh laws established for those who seek righteousness (1 Timothy 1:9,10)? Who are they for? Read Romans 7:7-25. Can these laws save us? What are they for? How do these laws help us
realize our sin? Can these laws change
us from within, or do they just condemn outward action? Can we know what holiness is from these
laws? You see, the Pharisees in Jesus’
day were twisting these and other laws to benefit themselves (Mathew 23). Rather than upholding the law and seeing to
justice and mercy, they rampantly let each man avenge himself. This is most evident by the way they sought
to take revenge upon Jesus and His disciples.
How are we to deal with our vindictive nature? Read James 1:19, 20.
What must we do and in what order?
Is any of your anger justified before God? Have you ever felt justified in seeking retaliation? Did you retaliate? If you have ever retaliated, did it solve the problem or
aggravate it? Are you convinced that
your anger does not bring about righteousness?
26:46-56. Would you have
done the same thing Peter did (John 18:10)?
What could Jesus have done about this arrest if He wanted to? Would He have been justified in avenging His
arrest? Do you think He even needed all
those angels to help Him? What do you
think was His point in mentioning these alternate venues He had at His
disposal? Peter himself, later on,
encourages all of us to follow in Jesus’ footsteps in 1 Peter 2:21-23.
Resistance to evil is second nature. Our sinful nature is
resistant to the Spirit’s prompting of humility and submission when it comes to
self-serving and self-preservation. We
need to make our first nature that of
seeking reconciliation as payback for evil.
Fighting fire with fire is the way of the world. Can you really put out fire with more fire? Read Romans 12:19-21.
Whose wrath we need to let act?
Whose place is it to avenge?
What is our place? Our role is not
to resist but insist. Insist on peace,
love and reconciliation. What happens
to the recipient of our love when we shower him/her with kindness as opposed to
evil? Can they accuse you of any
wrongdoing justly? How can you overcome
evil? Read 2 Corinthians 10:3-5. What weapons do you think Paul is talking
about here? Can love demolish
evil? Can kindness demolish hatred? How do you think you can take captive every
thought to Christ—yours and others’? Read James 3:13-18.
How can you tell when you are acting in wisdom from above as opposed to
selfish ambition and bitterness? What
kind of fruit does Heavenly wisdom bear?
What kind of fruit does worldly wisdom bear?
Not returning evil for evil
is not necessarily the central teaching of Matthew 5:38-40.
Returning an act of kindness for an act of evil without sincerely taking
offense at the individual’s actions is the principle in context. As we will read in Matthew 6:1ff, our deeds are not to
be performed just to be seen by men.
Turning the other cheek and giving away your cloak is to be done out of
sincerity and genuine concern for the other person’s welfare, whether spiritual
or physical or both. This is the kind
of perfect (Matthew
5:48) love Jesus showed us on the cross. Matthew
23:25-30 presents this case against those who may have done what was
right, but their hearts were filled with hypocrisy and evil. What does God look at in a man (1 Samuel 16:7)? Jesus quoted the Pharisees as saying they
would have never killed the prophets their forefathers killed. Yet, what did they do to Jesus and His
disciples? They may have appeared
righteous to men, but Jesus could see right through them. The Holy Spirit never produces vengeful
fruit, remember that (James 3:13-18)!
Although there are righteous and holy ways to deal with
retaliation in our social structure, our role as individuals is not to seek
these out of personal gain or any sense of justice we may think is due to us
Corinthians 6:1-8). Our role
as Kingdom Citizens is to be ministers of reconciliation at the center of our
hearts. “To insist on every personal
right, to right every personal affront, to retaliate at every real or supposed
injury or insult is to continually war, quarrel, and wrangle with every man.” –Max Miller, The Sermon on the Mount Read Romans 13:1-8; Titus 3:1,2; 1 Peter 2:13-17. Who has established the authorities that
exist in our country? If you rebel
against the governing authorities that exist, who do you rebel against? Why has God established these
authorities? Does God use these agents
to deliver His justice? So if you hold
bitterness against the system in place, who do you hold bitterness
against? If you think the authorities
have wronged you, is it your place to hold bitterness and seek vengeance
against them? Is it right to retaliate
by withholding taxes due to the governing authorities? Is it right to “take the law into your own
When they hurled their insults at him, he did not
retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself
to him who judges justly. – 1 Peter