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Countercultural Living

August 12, 2020

Dear Believers,

Thank you for praying with us for our prodigals and for revival. I saw a good quote by William Tyndale that caught my attention. It says, “God’s goodness is the root of all goodness; and our goodness, if we have any, springs out of His goodness.” My mind went to the words of David, “The LORD is good to everyone. He showers compassion on all his creation” (Ps 145:9). May we seek to emulate His goodness today! 

As we continue our study in 1 Thessalonians 5, we come to a statement that says, “See that no one repays anyone evil for evil [or harm for harm], but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone” (1 Thes 5:15). In this passage, Paul draws our attention to the impact of evil on us personally, our responses to it, and the necessity and blessedness of doing what is good.

First is the problem of evil when it impacts us personally. The world at large is controlled by Satan and marked by sin and darkness (1 Jn 5:19, Jn 3:19). When someone does us wrong, when we are hurt or affected by someone else's disrespectful behavior, then we typically rise up in anger. This is quite natural and in many cases justifiable--God Himself is angry with sin and injustice (Ps 7:11). A believer who you thought was a friend spreads lies about you. A stranger cuts you off in traffic and you narrowly miss having an accident. Your boss makes life impossible for you. The list goes on and on.

In some situations, even when you try to talk and reason things out, nothing seems to make a difference. What do you do? How do you respond? 

Second, we must distinguish between the natural response and the spiritual one. When we are wronged, strong reactions and retaliation are easy responses. When that friend spreads lies, do you slander them? Respond in kind? When that stranger veers too close, are you filled with road rage? Do you speed up and cut them off? When your boss makes life hard, do you grumble and do sloppy work? Do you gossip against them?

According to our verse, all of these reactions would be wrong. The words are clear, “See that no one repays anyone evil for evil.” In Romans 12, Paul reminds us of a similar situation and says, “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord’” (Rom 12:19). Instead of the natural response of paying back, bring it to your Father and leave it in the hands of God.

The third is the ideal of doing what is good. The text doesn’t end by saying what not to do, but goes on to say what you should do. “But always seek to do good to one another and to everyone.” This is a totally countercultural reaction. It is repaying evil with good. Going back to Romans 12, the apostle says, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Rom 12:21). How is this even possible? 

If you trace the life of Jesus, you will find that He did this on a regular, continual basis. When the Nazarenes tried to push Him over a cliff, He didn’t retaliate. When at the cross, the soldiers drove the nails in, He asked His Father to forgive them. You would expect Him to be loving because He is God, but He was also human. He felt the full range of emotions we feel. He did what was good and responded with kindness because He was filled with the Holy Spirit at all times. He lived in the power of the Holy Spirit. (Lk 4:14). This is the only way we can live the Jesus way. Our enabling power to do what is right, to go above and beyond the natural responses or the normal societal standards, and act like our Savior, is in the power of the Holy Spirit. Galatians 5 gives us insight into this enabling power. “So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves…But when you are directed by the Spirit, you are not under obligation to the law of Moses…But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives” (Gal 5:16-25).

May we follow the Spirit’s leading and the example of Jesus, as we do what is good to others today!

Love in Christ,

Bryan and Rachel


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