Make sure that no one repays evil for evil. Always pursue what is good for one another and for all people.
I. WARNING AGAINST RETALIATION. "See that none render evil for evil to any man."
2. It is condemned by Christ's beautiful example of forbearance. (1 Peter 2:23.) "Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, threatened not."
3. It is expressly rebuked by Christ in the case of the disciples James and John. (Luke 9:54, 55.)
4. It springs from a spiteful heart. (Ezekiel 25:15.)
5. It indicates a want of trust in God. (Proverbs 20:22.)
II. INCULCATION OF THE PURSUIT OF GOOD. "But ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves and to all men." Believers are not to resist evil, but to return good for evil - to overcome evil with good.
1. The good to be done is after the example of Christ, who "went about every day doing good."
3. It is the preordained pathway of God's children. (Ephesians 2:10.)
4. Christians ought to provoke each other to good. (Hebrews 10:24.)
5. It is a grand argument for the gospel. (Matthew 5:16.)
6. It is to be catholic in its spirit; for it is to he done, not to believers only, but "to all men." The believer is to have "brotherly kindness" as well as "love" (2 Peter 1:7).
7. It is to be earnestly pursued. "Follow after that which is good."
(1) Because it glorifies God (Matthew 5:16).
(2) Because God remembers it (Hebrews 6:9, 10).
(3) Because it is an evidence of faith (James 2:14-20).
(4) Because it shall be brought into judgment (2 Corinthians 5:10). - T.C.
See that none render evil for evilI. SEE THAT NONE RENDER EVIL FOR EVIL UNTO ANY MAN. Retaliation betrays a weak and cruel disposition. Pagan morality went so far as to forbid the unprovoked injuring of others; and it is not without noble examples of the exercise of a spirit of forgiveness. The Jews prostituted to purposes of private revenge the laws which were intended to administer equitable retributions. It is Christianity alone that teaches man to bear personal injuries without retaliation. "Hath any wronged thee," says Quarles," be bravely revenged; slight it, and the work is begun; forgive it, and it is finished. He is below himself that is not above an injury." Public wrongs the public law will avenge; and the final recompense for all wrong must be left to the Infallible Judge (Romans 12:19, 20).
II. BUT EVER FOLLOW THAT WHICH IS GOOD, BOTH AMONG YOURSELVES AND TO ALL MEN. The noblest retaliation is that of good for evil. In the worst character there is some element of goodness. Our beneficence should be as large as an enemy's malice (Matthew 5:44, 45). That which is good is not always that which is pleasing. Goodness should be sought for its own sake. It is the great aim and business of life. Goodness is essentially diffusive; it delights in multiplying itself in others. It is undeterred by provocation; it conquers the opposition. Lessons:
1. The perceptive morality of Christianity is a signal evidence of its transcendent glory.
2. Practice is more potent than precept.
3. The Christian spirit is the root of genuine goodness.
(G. Barlow.)It is not strictly true to say that Christianity alone at first forbade to return evil for evil. Plato knew that it was not the true definition of justice to do harm to one's enemies. The Stoics, who taught the extirpation of the passions, were far enough from admitting of revenge to be the only one that should be allowed to remain. It is a higher as well as a truer claim to make for the gospel, that it kindled that spirit of kindness and goodwill in the breast of man (which could not be wholly extinguished even towards an enemy), until it became a practical principle; and that it preached as a rule of life for all, what had previously been the supreme virtue, or the mere theory of philosophers.
(Prof. Jowett.)Ever follow that which is good among yourselves and to all —
1. In political effort men can unite, and so they ought in religious; for religion means the link which binds men for good work. Is it more important to put one's political friends in Parliament than to win one's neighbours for heaven?
2. Remember the unwearied diligence of political partizans. All, one cannot help regretting that Christians are less earnest.
3. In politics men will give up their dearly loved crotchets to promote the welfare of the general party. Why not, then, sink our individualism in following that which is good? We are to ever do so —
I. IN BUILDING UP OUR OWN CHARACTER.
1. It is easier to do good than to be good. We are so apt to be discouraged by many failures. We have wished to grow in goodness like a tree, but we have more to contend with than a tree. We promise well in bud and leaf, and then the fruit does not ripen, and we get discouraged. Some of us have done worse. We have put forth the bud of innocence, but the blossom of virtue has been nipped by the frost of misfortune, or the blast of temptation, and we have given up. To all such let this exhortation come with power. Still set your face towards the good. Try again. Will you throw away your coat because it is soiled? Would you have your child despair of writing because he has upset the ink?
2. In following the good let us aim high. To copy from another may help us a little; but we shall make the surest progress if we follow only Christ. We teach children writing by setting the best copy before them. If we fall today, let us arise today and follow Him.
II. IN THE CHURCH. Every Church should be a missionary society, and when a new member is received something should be found for him to do. It is true you cannot find a perfect Church; but this should not dishearten you. Go into an organ factory — what a horrible din! Yes; but what is the result? The Church is an organ factory. All our pipes have to be made and tuned. But if we are in earnest we shall not care for the discord; the instrument will one day play harmonious music. In battle, if a general see a brigade hardly pressed he orders out another to support it. So, if the Church's battalion in the slums is weak, the battalion in the suburbs should hasten to its help. Let us by our example make the Church vigorous and good. If the prayer meeting is good, the Lord's supper, etc., follow them. Be as regular and earnest in Church duty as though you were paid for it.
III. IN THE WORLD. Lift up your voices against war. Working men uphold arbitration against strikes. Do not blame statesmen for making war, when master and man fight and ruin one another.
IV. IN YOUR OWN NEIGHBOURHOOD. There is much that you can do there. Conclusion:
1. Persevere in following the good.
2. Let your motive be the love of Christ.
3. If you keep following the good, your works will follow you.
(H. R. Burton.)
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