1 Thessalonians 5:15 – See to it that no one repays evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue what is good for one another and for all.
When we are unforgiving toward others, it’s easy for us to repay evil for evil, to repay in kind toward an injustice that may have been directed toward us.
However, Paul here is encouraging the believers to look beyond the injustice to what is good, not only for one another (through a relationship crisis), but good for all concerned.
We tend to lose sight of the fact that all of our relationships have many different tendrils of association beyond just the isolated relationship itself. If an injustice is committed between two friends, the recognition of that injustice can become known to the other associates and friends of that relationship, and can affect many other individuals.
For example, if a romantic couple breaks up due to some differences, then the friends of the couple, who may now know each other independently of the couple who is breaking up, will be affected by the break up. They may choose to continue their relationships as friends, but will need to socially navigate around the issue with the now detached couple-friends.
This is the way issues spread throughout congregations, as well. When social stresses become active within certain relationship groups, it can spread throughout a congregation through shared connections. In the extreme, it can lead to congregations mistrust and sometimes even cause group to split into several groups if it cannot be reconciled.
But therein lies the key to its solution; reconciliation. Paul here is stressing that when these situations arise, that all parties concerned should seek the good of others for the sake of all. What affects one relationship can easily spread beyond the immediate affected group to the wider group through shared connections and relationships. Because of this, the web of unity can become brittle and break.
Paul’s solution is simple, although not always easy: don’t repay evil for evil. If someone has become offended or emotionally hurt in some way, they should not respond in kind, but should seek reconciliation through communicating the offense and working through it until a peaceful result can be achieved. This is a mature response to the casual injustices that occur every day and this should be the evident solution among all believers.
When we are always pursuing what is good for others and for all, we will be operating as peacemakers, and the strength of unity will be reinforced. In this, we can be recognized as acting as true children of God.
Matthew 5:9 – “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.
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