Inexorably pursue the good
Always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else. – 1 Thessalonians 5:15
1 Thess 5:11-15
11 Therefore encourage one another, and build up one another, just as you also are doing.
12 But we request of you, brethren, that you appreciate those who diligently labor among you, and have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction,
13 and that you esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Live in peace with one another.
14 And we urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with all men.
15 See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek after that which is good for one another and for all men.
Catherine McAuley was born near Dublin, Ireland on September 29, 1778. Her father was a successful businessman and a devout Catholic. He devoted himself to serving the poor throughout Dublin. Many of Catherine’s earliest memories were of watching her dad provide personal care for the poor. Her father’s compassion and mercy made a deep impression on her. She in turn became empathic. She soon shared her father’s passion to care for those who were less fortunate. What a magnificent inheritance!
When both her parents died, Catherine went to live with relatives. They were strong Protestants and life became a difficult struggle for Catherine. It was a time of trial. But she had a good heart and responded appropriately with grace and kindness. As she depended upon her faith in God, she navigated her way through these difficult times. Her spirituality was centered on God’s Mercy grew stronger and still. She found “peace in the Cross, joy in suffering, prayer in action and action in prayer” (Bolster).
At the age of 25, a retired Quaker couple invited her to live with them. Catherine became their loving companion and caretaker. Her life was an example of holiness and love. Upon the couple’s death, they bequeathed their estate to her. A second great inheritance. She used the funds to build a House of Mercy, the first of many. She and other laywomen would shelter homeless women, reach out to the sick and dying, and educate poor girls.
Many of Catherine’s wonderful sayings have been passed down to us. Here is one of her most well-known. “The simplest and most practical lesson I know is to resolve to be good today, but better tomorrow.”
1 Thessalonians 5:15 See that no one pays back evil for evil, but always try to do good to each other and to all people.
Not paying back evil for evil seems very unrealistic. Our natural reaction is to strike back and try to get even. We want to return tit for tat. It seems to be not only impractical but just wrong to our natural way of thinking. On top of that, there is the fear that the miscreant would not get what they deserve. They will not get what they have coming to
When we are hurt or offended by the actions or words of someone else our natural reaction is to strike back and try to get even. We want to return tit for tat. Not paying back evil for evil seems very unrealistic and totally the reverse of our natural way of thinking. On top of that, there is the fear in the back of our minds that the miscreant may not get what they have coming to them and so richly deserve.
But stop and think for a moment. Did the Father give us what we deserved? Of course not! The Father in His mercy and grace chose not to give us what we had coming. The Father decided not to retaliate and pay us back according to our evil deeds. He did not give us evil for evil. Therefore He expects all children of the King to follow His example and act in the same way. Retaliation is completely off the table. Retaliation is simply not an option for children of the King.
Romans 12:17 Never pay back evil with more evil.
Who decides what people have coming to them as a result of their evil schemes and actions? When an appropriate punishment is identified, who is to say whether it is carried out or mercifully cut short or canceled? The Father is the lawgiver and the final and highest authority in the universe. Judgment and sentencing are His prerogatives alone.
The Greek word translated pay back or repayis apodidomi. Apodidomi means to recompense, render, reward, or punish someone based upon what we think they deserve.
Paul strongly admonishes the children of the King that they should do wrong to someone else because that individual has done wrong to them. This is the golden rule in reverse.
Rather than simply react, we are to be patient, kind, and forgiving. Our natural propensity to get even for wrongs received must be reprogrammed.
REFLECT & PRAY
If anyone wants to be first, he shall be last of all, and servant of all (Mark 9:35).
Father lead me and empower me to live as the Lord Jesus Christ lived. Encourage me to do good and not get even.
Paul now does a 180° turn. Instead of focusing on the negative, Paul focuses on the positive. His goal is to make kindness and forgiveness the go-to instinctive behavior and desire of every child of the King. Retaliation and revenge should no longer be in our vocabulary.
1 Thessalonians 5:15 Always seek to do good to one another and to everyone.
Paul admonishes the children of the King to “always seek after that which is good.” The Greek word translated as try or seek is dioko. Dioko is a strong verb meaning pursue, chase, or run. It has the sense of to strive for something, go after it with the intent of catching it. It implies an ardent, inexorable effort to do good instead of evil. It is as though we are in a foot race running away from the inclination to do evil and instead of running full speed toward doing good.
This is a continuous, iterative, and ongoing “always on” pursuit of the good for one another and everyone else. Our primary responsibility is to do good to other children of the King, the community of faith. And then to everyone else.
To respond with kindness and love is unnatural. It requires commitment and determination. How is it possible? Paul spells it out.
1 Thessalonians 5:23 Now may the God of peace make you holy in every way, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ comes again.
The Father must do a powerful work within us. He needs to make us holy to the depths of our being in every way, our spirits, our souls, and our bodies. He is to empower us to rise above the norm and operate on another plane.