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August 24, 2010

Building Strong Friendships in Christ

Seeking after Good Today

“See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek after that which is good for one another and for all people.”

1 Thessalonians 5:15

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Eternal Life

  I just finished reading a novel about the Old West in America.  A single woman had to defend her home and large ranch against evil men who wanted to take it away from her.  Some of her relatives, and eventually her sons, returned to the ranch and they were tough men.  They repaid evil with violence.  They did not start a fight, but they sure tried to end it with fists or guns.  In many ways, this tough pioneer spirit makes mean people stand up, oppose evil and enforce righteousness.  Yet, according to Jesus, believers in Him should be very careful about how we treat our friends in Christ, and all other people.

         In 1 Thessalonians 5:15, Paul issues a stern warning against retaliation, and repaying evil with evil.  So often, we think first of retaliation, and we burn with anger when people visit unprovoked evil upon us.  All of our natural instincts come out, and we want to get at least even, and maybe prove that we are not people to be messed with.  Paul, however, cautioned us that such evil repaying evil will only lead to a cycle of evil.

        In Matthew 5:38, Jesus said that we are no longer to live under the law of an “eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.”  Instead, Jesus taught us not to resist an evil person; whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also (Matthew 5:39).  Jesus imposed a much higher standard here by commanding His servants to love your neighbor and your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you (Matthew 5:44).

       Take a moment and ponder the whole concept of evil.  In 1 Thessalonians 5:15, we must know first that some believers will do evil to their fellow believers.  You can count on it.  Your friend in Christ will do something completely evil to you.  You may not have started the fight, but the temptation for you to repay with evil flares up within you.  Stop.  Remember what Jesus said and Paul reiterated.  When we face evil, even from our friends in Christ, we never repay evil with evil, even though our first instinct says get them back, double if possible.  Jesus never did anything evil in His entire life.  We must be like Him all the time.

       Following Jesus not only means we avoid doing evil, but we have an affirmative obligation to do good as well.  The term good (“ἀγαθὸν“) speaks of the tree that bears good fruit (Matthew 7:17), the good that only God possesses (Mark 10:18), and the good man who brings forth good treasure from his heart (Luke 6:45).  We have a duty as believers to counter evil with doing good, because we love Jesus and act like Him.  Love means we never repay evil with evil, but we lay down our lives to do good, just as Jesus did.

       For some of you reading this note, you know you have repaid evil for evil.  Now is the time that you repent, call the person you have done evil to, and set the matter right.  Determine from here on out to do good, and make your love in Christ known to your friends.

        So, we learn some more about building strong friendships in Christ.

     ●  Strong bonds of friendship form when we never repay evil with evil, but do good to everyone.

     ●  Strong bonds of friendship grow when we overcome the evil desire to repay evil with evil, but always do good for our friends in Christ, even when they do evil to us.  As friends, we stop our friends from repaying evil with evil, but encourage them to repay evil with good.

     ●  We harm our bonds of friendship when we let let evil rule our lives and destroy our friendships.  We build and encourage one another with good, especially when it meets evil head on.

Application for Today

        Today, I will do good, and avoid paying evil with evil.  The love of Jesus Christ will overcome all evil, and we want to follow Him, doing good.  Will you repay evil or do good today?