“See that no one renders evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue what is good both for yourselves and for all” (1 Thessalonians 5:15).
Having earlier counseled his readers to “Be at peace among yourselves” (Thessalonians 5:13 ESV), the Apostle Paul will now offer some practical instruction to help us do so in the passage quoted above. We can begin to put these instructions into practice by first defining our terms.
For instance, we can define “evil” as, “the quality of being morally bad or wrong; that which causes harm, misfortune, or destruction, (or) something that is a cause or source of suffering, injury, or destruction.” (1) To this definition, we can add one more: “Evil is the absence of something good that should exist.” In fact, the original language of this verse defines the word “evil” as “…the lack in a person or thing of those qualities which should be possessed.” (2)
So this passage tells us that we should not seek to inflict harm or injury upon those who have inflicted such things upon us. While this goes against our natural desire to strike back at those who have hurt us, our obligation to conduct ourselves in a Christ-like manner does not end in such instances. In fact, this directive also extends to our internal thoughts and attitudes, even in those instances where others seemingly “get what they deserve”…
“Do not rejoice when your enemy meets trouble. Let there be no gladness when he falls— for the Lord may be displeased with you and stop punishing him!” (Proverbs 24:17-18 TLB).
It also mirrors God’s response as well…
“But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:44-45 ESV).
Finally, this type of mindset follows the example Jesus set for us…
“For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly” (1 Peter 2:21-23 ESV).
We’ll consider how one Biblical personality modeled this kind of response next.
(1) American Heritage Dictionary Of The English Language, Third Edition
(2) G2556 kakos Vines, W. E., M. A. Entry for ‘Bad’. Vine’s Expository Dictionary of NT Words. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/ved/b/bad.html. 1940.