“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.”
-1 Peter 3:9
Shakespeare once said “If you prick us do we not bleed? If you tickle us do we not laugh? If you poison us do we not die? And if you wrong us shall we not revenge?” Somehow retaliation seems to be a normal response to someone doing us harm. Even the Old Testament says “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” So, if someone hurts you, get ‘em back, right?
No. It might seem like it will make you feel better, or bring about some sort of personal justice, to retaliate, but even the “eye for an eye” quote (Exodus 21:23-25) does not mean that YOU get to hit, curse or otherwise harm those who harm you. It is speaking of the law/the government dealing with wrongdoing, not us. It is there to warn that there are consequences to wrongdoing (you can’t just go around hurting others without there being a response). It is there to set limits of a reasonable penalty to wrongdoing (if you slap someone, then you get slapped, we don’t kill you). Finally, it is about individuals not taking the law into their own hands. The law is to be administered by authorities, not just anybody at any time.
The apostle Paul wrote to the Roman Christians about revenge as well,
“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.”
“Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone.”
“Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord. On the contrary: ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
So, Paul is reminding us that God, the ultimate authority, will handle the law; that is the response to wrongdoing. It is for Him to determine justice or mercy, and not us.
Now, what Peter is saying in this letter is along the same lines. The God who showed us mercy for our sins says that we are to also show mercy to those who sin against us. God, who could exact justice (punishment) on us for our sins, instead chose to love us, forgive us and bless us.
Lord, forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.
* Pastor Bill