Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what you have been called to do, that you should inherit blessing.1 Peter 3:9
If everyone in the world followed this one teaching, we would essentially have an end to all strife. However, we have this admonition because there are always people who are evil and insulting to others.
Evil is such a bitter and condemning word. But the underlying Greek definition for this word is not any kinder: “inner malice flowing out of a morally-rotten character.” We can never surmise why someone acts in the evil way they do, whether it is due to their upbringing, their situations in life, or the decisions they have made along the way. Perhaps it’s a combination of some or all of those things.
Peter doesn’t make a distinction in specific types of evil, an there is no way for us to know someone’s motivation. We are taught only to not respond in the same way with the same type of evil.
As for the insults one might receive, one of the English definitions for the Greek word used here for insult reads, “using mean-spirited, insulting words to demoralize or humiliate.” Sounds like any comment feed or live chat online. More than that, in real life we also encounter individuals like this in all aspects of our lives. Some are strangers in stores, some are friends who have been offended, and some are family members.
The point is: it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter if you think they were born evil and insulting or if they were somehow negatively influenced by their surroundings and environments, or if they are strangers, acquaintances or family members. As disciples of Yeshua we are commanded to respond with blessing, that is, speaking well of all others at all times. This will likely involve large measures of forgiveness as a method of overlooking the offense or injury.
Peter teaches us to follow the example of our Lord, the Messiah.
For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in his steps. … He did not retaliate when he was insulted, nor threaten revenge when he suffered. He left his case in the hands of God, who always judges fairly.1 Peter 2:21, 23
While this may be a revolutionary concept to our ears today, it was not new within the instruction of God. This has always been a principle of God’s torah, or his instruction, quoted by Peter here in his teaching. If we heed its injunction, then we are eligible for its promise: deliverance out of the injustice, a deliverance which comes from Yahweh.
Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit. Turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it. … Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the LORD delivers him out of them all.Psalm 34:13-14, 19
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