Negative and Positive Precepts
1 Thessalonians 5:15
See that none render evil for evil to any man; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men.

I. 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.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: See that none render evil for evil unto any man; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men.

WEB: See that no one returns evil for evil to anyone, but always follow after that which is good, for one another, and for all.

Good for Evil
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