Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Romans 12:9-10
“Repay kindness with kindness, but evil with justice,” said Confucius, the Chinese philosopher and ethics teacher of some 15 centuries ago.
Confucius was a pagan, but what he said in the above statement is an acceptable principle in an area we call “civil righteousness.” Civil government exists to maintain law, order, and a level of decency in life as we lead it in community, state, and nation.
Jesus rises above that minimal righteousness as enunciated by Confucius and as practiced by us as citizens. Shall we repay “evil with justice” in our private lives as Christians? Jesus has a different formula. He tells His followers, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). In these words He sets aside the eye-for-an-eye and tooth-for-a tooth principle as improper in our private Christian lives. Instead, He wants us to pray for and do good to our enemies. Saint Paul follows through by likewise enunciating the higher Christian ethic: “Bless those who persecute you. …Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is Mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord” (Romans 12:14, 17-19).
Personal Christian ethics are based on love – love that conquers and endures, love that supersedes feelings of revenge, love that does not repay evil with punishment but with prayer. Such love has its source in the redeeming love of Jesus Christ. To the Ephesians Saint Paul writes, “I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have the power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ” (Ephesians 3:17-18).
We keep in mind that Christian love must at times be “tough.” It does not want to aid and abet evildoers, perhaps even encourage them, by covering things over with a declaration of love. True love, to be helpful and healing, must occasionally serve as a corrective.
PRAYER: Lord Jesus, have mercy on those who oppose You and Your church and through the Holy Spirit lead them to faith in Your saving grace. Guide me to live at peace with my enemies and not repay evil for evil. Amen.
(Devotions from "With Jesus Every Day" copyright 1997, CPH. All Rights Reserved. No part of this publication may be printed, reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without prior written permission of Concordia Publishing House. Permission is granted for one-time emailing of this link to a friend. For information on other devotional material, please contact CPH at 800-325-3040 or visit CPH at www.cph.org.)
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