A couple weeks ago, I loaded up the YouVersion Bible app at church to follow along with the sermon at church. On the first screen when the app loads is a daily Bible verse. On this particular day, was the following verse:
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 ESV)
I was struck by it. Not because it is a familiar passage that touches my heart in some mystical way every time I read it, but because of how strong and hard the command is. It is more than a simple, “be nice to people” remark. Much more. It is a burdensome command and yet one that is vital if we are to have a living Christian faith.
Let’s look at it in reverse order and then bring it full circle.
…always seek to do good to one another and to everyone.
This is the easy part. In everything that we, as believers, and as human beings, do, we are to seek the other person’s good. We are to mutually serve one another and everyone around us. This is a twofold statement. Our doing good is to be to each other within the community, but we are also to do good to those outside the Christian fellowship…whether or not they are doing anything for us.
This doesn’t mean that we as Christians do good deeds for each other for what we can get out of it. We are to “always” seek to do good. But not just for Christians. To everyone. We should be known for our servant’s heart and caring attitude toward others, no matter who they may be.
See that no one repays anyone evil for evil…
This is the part that hit me the hardest. We all know that eye for an eye just doesn’t work. It’s not a good way to solve problems. Despite it being an idea ingrained in the human psyche and the Old Testament, Jesus even said, clearly, in so many words, “Yeah…that’s not a good idea. Don’t do that anymore.”
This is a hard enough lesson for us in our individual dealings. But it makes sense. If someone is crappy to us, the best thing to do is to continue being nice to them. It “heaps burning coals onto their heads” as one Scripture suggests.
But Paul takes it a step further than that. Paul tells us to make sure that other people are being obedient to this command as well. Paul lays the burden of accountability to this basic of human values on us. And not just within the body of believers. Paul uses the phrases “no one” and “anyone”. Paul is calling us to hold those around us accountable to the way of Jesus in this regard.
All together now
What we are seeing here is a calling within a calling. We are called to hold each other accountable. But within that command is a call to also hold those around us accountable. When evil is done, we as Christians are called to stand in the way of further evil being done in response. We are called to stand with Jesus against the “eye for an eye” lifestyle so characteristic of our species. We are to see that potential in ourselves and combat it by doing good to each other and everyone around us. And we are called to see that potential in the world around us and fight it there as well.
In this case, I think the outside battle is going to be a lot more challenging than the inner one.