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.

For, ‘Whoever would love life and see good days must keep their tongue from evil and their lips from deceitful speech. They must turn from evil and do good; they must seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and His ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.’ (1 Peter 3: 8-12)

Peter, you have learned your lessons well! Peter’s thoughts and counsel are thoroughly Hebrew and steeped in the Old Testament Scriptures.

If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink. In doing this you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you. (Prov. 25:21)

Lesson number one – be generous, not vindictive, towards your enemy.

The Old Testament principle was called “heaping burning coals” which, in Hebrew culture was not a form of retribution – quite the opposite. In those times, everything was carried on the head, as many African people do today. They learned to do it with perfect balance, leaving the hands free to do other things. If a woman carried an empty brazier on her head, she had not means to cook or warm her house. It would be an act of generosity to heap burning coals into her empty brazier; it would mean warmth, food and almost life itself for her in her need.

Lesson number two – do the right thing and you will receive a supernatural blessing.

Peter said, ‘Repay evil with blessing.’ What does he mean? There are two words for blessing in Hebrew: baruch, which is the supernatural blessing of God, and asher, which is the blessing of which Jesus spoke in Matt. 5 – the sense of peace and well-being that comes from making the right choices and doing the right thing.

In this situation, when people treat you as an enemy: with contempt, disdain or worse – insult, abuse or physical violence – the right thing to do is to do something positive in response so that you do not compound their sin with your own.

What lies behind the attitude of non-retaliation that expresses the kingdom way of living, a passage which Peter quoted in part? David gives us the answer in Psalm 34:11-14:

Come, my children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord. Whoever of you loves life and desires to see many good days, keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking lies. Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.

Our motivation for doing the right thing should always be the fear of the Lord. That does not mean being afraid of punishment if we do the wrong thing. It means, very simple terms, taking God seriously. To fear the Lord is to have such reverence and respect for Him that we obey Him without question because He is God and because we cannot escape or hide from Him. He knows everything about us including our thoughts and motives.

Said Solomon after exhaustively exploring the meaning of life:

Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil. (Eccl. 12: 13, 14)

On the authority of Scripture, Peter told his readers that the right thing to do under injustice and cruelty is to respond with kindness and generosity because that was the right thing to do. It is evidence that the child of God sincerely fears Him by living according to the standards and principles of the kingdom. God will respond with supernatural favour.

This is the way of the Master and evidence that we fear the Lord.

Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Luella Campbell

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