“See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone” (1 Thessalonians 5:15 NET).
The Old Testament account of Joseph offers an example of a Biblical personality who embodied the message of 1 Thessalonians 5:15. Through an unfortunate turn of events, the Biblical book of Genesis tells us that several of Joseph’s family members seized him and sold him as a slave to a group of traveling merchants. Those merchants later sold Joseph to a man named Potiphar who served as the captain of the guard for Pharaoh, the king of Egypt.
Over time, God blessed Joseph and he eventually rose to an important position as Potiphar’s chief of staff. However, Joseph’s rise to prominence also attracted some unwanted attention…
“Now Joseph was well built and handsome. After some time the wife of Joseph’s master began to desire Joseph, and one day she said to him, ‘Have sexual relations with me.’
But Joseph refused and said to her, ‘My master trusts me with everything in his house. He has put me in charge of everything he owns. There is no one in his house greater than I. He has not kept anything from me except you, because you are his wife. How can I do such an evil thing? It is a sin against God.’ The woman talked to Joseph every day, but he refused to have sexual relations with her or even spend time with her” (Genesis 39:6-10 NCV).
We’re later told that Potiphar’s wife retaliated against Joseph for his refusal to engage in a physical relationship with her by entrapping him in a false allegation of sexual assault. That led to a lengthy prison term for Joseph even though he had done nothing wrong. Yet even when Joseph later rose to an even greater position as second-in-command in the nation of Egypt, there is no indication that he ever sought revenge against Potiphar’s wife for her false accusation against him.
In fact, Joseph even declined to punish those family members who unjustly sold him into slavery even though it was well within his power to execute them for their actions against him. In these respects, Joseph served as a living example of the attitude given to us here in 1 Thessalonians 5:15: “See to it that no one repays evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue what is good for one another and for all” (HCSB).
For an in-depth look at Joseph’s life, see Genesis chapter 37 and chapters 39-50 here