Repaying Evil with Goodness – Message for 4/27/08 (Easter VI)

1 Peter 3:8-22 (ESV) – Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. 10 For “Whoever desires to love life and see good days,
let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; 11 let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it. 12 For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” 13 Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? 14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, 15 but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, 16 having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. 17 For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.  18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, 19 in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, 20 because they formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water. 21 Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him.

1 Peter 3 reminds us that we are not to repay evil with evil, but instead bless those who revile us.  When some notice our unusual response to persecution, they may ask about the hope to which we cling.  We should be ready, with gentleness and respect, to explain how our hope is anchored in the gospel of Jesus Christ.  And just what is the gospel in the context of this passage?  It is the fact that God did not repay our own evil with evil, but broke the pattern of our sinful ways through our Lord’s reconciling sacrfice.

God has responded to our sin and evil with mercy and goodness, in order that he might bring us to himself.  Likewise, our repayment of evil with goodness might just lead others to know the hope that only Christ Jesus has the power — through his death, resurrection and ascension — to offer.  For he is the one “who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him.” 

Apart from Christ, we are subjected to the ways of this world, to the patterns of sin and retribution and endless cycles of violence and hatred.  But in Christ and his atoning sacrifice, we have received power from on high to offer goodness and hope in the face of injustice and despair.

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