‘Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else.’ 1 Thessalonians 5.15
This sounds very challenging - or at least putting it into practice certainly does! We can all happily read about not paying people back with what they deserve, but it gets a lot more challenging when we are called to do it!
An initial point worth remembering is that God is not sitting in heaven dreaming up impossible commands for us to follow simply because he loves to give us a challenge! Instead his calling is for us to be like him, or as Paul puts it: ‘Be imitators of God’ (Ephesians 5.1).
This suggests that the commands he gives us are pointers to what God is like, and that if we can fulfil these commands then we will indeed be like God. This particular verse tells us two amazing things about God: first, he does not repay us wrong for wrong, and secondly, he strives to do good for us.
All too often we live with a secret anxiety that God is storing up trouble for us because of our sins, but how could he command us to do what he is not prepared to do himself? He does not repay our sins with punishment; instead Jesus took the punishment for our sins upon himself. Yet rather than treat us with disdain, Jesus now strives to do good for us - just as he commands us to do for others.
Our problem is accepting this. A possible starting point is to sit before him letting these words go through your mind: 'Father, you strive to do what is good for me'. Capture this sense of his heartfelt desire to bless you.
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The Revd John Ryeland, Director of The Christian Healing Mission