I am blessed to meet with a beautiful group of ladies weekly. I love how we can be vulnerable with each other. I love how we can encourage and pray for each other. I especially love how God moves us to apply our faith to our life situations.
Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. I Peter 3: 8-9
My friends and I were studying I & II Peter and spent a fair amount of time on these two verses. It was easy to apply them to work and family situations. When we are in the middle of a sympathetic, like-minded relationship, we feel not only joy but comfort, safety, and security.
Likewise, when confronted with evil or insult, we quickly realize that our sense of security has dissipated; we instantly feel alone. For me, this kind of situation brings on a sense of panic. I don’t necessarily panic because I experience with evil. I panic because I don’t know how to respond with effective emotions. I don’t know what to do. I default to the horribly misguided notion that this is a problem for me to fix.
I panic because when I face evil actions, I lose trust in God.
The casual reading of these verses leads me to think of evil in more abstract terms. We see evidence of evil every day in hungry children, parents struggling to raise a family under dangerous conditions, people needlessly sick because of lack of access to healthcare, political goals that reduce entire populations to something less than human. We see evidence of unnatural death, violence, oppression, and we thank God that it is not a part of our story.
As long as these things aren’t happening to me, I can trust in God.
We identify evil when people we love suffer, and that makes evil a little bit less abstract. We see evil when loved ones suffer from illness, when marriages fall apart, or when children walk away from their faith. Hopefully, these examples of evil draw us to God in prayer and to our loved ones with the offer of care.
But, how do we respond when evil attacks us personally? What if evil actions hurt? What if we are stunned when a situation blows up when assumptions lead to gossip, and gossip leads to retaliation with no recourse or defense? What about when evil causes a relationship to shatter – even when you were trying hard to develop and protect that relationship? When this kind of evil happens, comfort and security are replaced with panic. Can God really protect me when someone hurts me?
It sounds kinda silly when I put it that way.
I suppose it is the difference between being protected from hurt and being protected from the impact of hurt. We don’t want pain in our life, and God’s answer to the request of a pain-free life is to produce character and growth instead. It’s a great response to evil, but not what we want.
In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. I Peter 1:6-7
Really God? Seriously?
Wouldn’t it be easier to give me genuine faith without all of the refining? Given that evil impacts relationships and ministry, wouldn’t it be a better plan to prevent it? I mean, aren’t relationships and ministry of primary importance here?
The simple answer is “no.” Indeed, God blesses our relationships, and He is pleased to allow us to do ministry, but every inch of the Bible tells us that the primary importance is Salvation. The most important relationship is His relationship with us. The most important ministry is what Jesus did for each of us. Salvation is the relationship that makes everything else have importance. Genuine, refined faith is a part of what is essential because it connects us to Salvation.
I have some serious problems with this line of thinking when evil happens to me personally when evil causes me to hurt. And, when evil destroys a relationship and negatively impacts my ability to do ministry. The world tells me to be assertive and to stand up for myself. The world says we invite more abuse unless we respond with strength.
But we can’t fix it. Furthermore, we know it will happen again. This is the nature of evil, is it not? This nature is the veritable description of being sinners in a sinful world. Some of the evil we fear originates with us. What response would make a difference to you? If people engage in the reciprocal slinging of evil what stops the momentum?
Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. I Peter 3:9
Grace is behind any real change. For us, grace begins by repaying evil with blessing.
Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. I Peter4:8
This past week my lovely group of ladies discussed this verse. How do we love someone who impacts our relationship with evil? How do we cover sin with love? Is love enough to forgive sins?
The answer, again, is grace, beautiful, undeserved, hard-to-believe grace.
We cannot fight evil, especially when we are standing in the middle of it and participating in the process. Sometimes it is tough to forgive when we experience hurt when relationships fall apart, and when ministry stumbles as a result. It is oh so very hard.
But, God asks us to bless. He asks us to love in a way that covers sin. He asks us to trust Him that He knows what is important and what good can come out of pain and brokenness.
May it be true that when God helps us to respond to evil with blessing the blessing that results will belong to us, too.
Weary Joy: The Caregiver's Journey
by Kim Marxhausen
available at Concordia Publishing Houseand Amazon