Stephanie Ehmke, MA, LPC
“Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.”
1 Peter 3:9 (NIV)
Following Jesus is not easy. It’s totally worth it, but not easy.
I came to know Jesus as my Savior at age 12 but abandoned my faith and tried to do life my own way from age 14 to 27. During my chaotic teenage years the thought of all those “Christian rules” was just too much for me. Life with God is supposed to make things easier, not harder, right?
Thankfully, the words of Jesus in the book of John rang true in my life. “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand” (John 10:28). I may have let go of Jesus for a while, but my original confession of faith was true and heartfelt, so in his grace he never let me go.
When I finally came back to God in my twenties, he was gracious enough to surround me with loving mentors to show me a different view of him and his word.
It turns out, all those “Christian rules” were there to make life easier and not harder.
There is tremendous freedom following Jesus and I can honestly say the guidelines he has put in place to keep me safe have never disappointed me. In fact, if I were to recall all the times I ignored his commands, I’ve never been happy or at peace, and wish I had done better.
Never once have I been happy that I lied, gossiped, woke up with a hangover, or used ugly words. Never.
Looking at the commands in Scripture and seeing how they truly do protect me has made it easier to follow most of them. Add into the mix that I don’t want to disappoint my friend Jesus… being obedient gets easier. Again, not easy, but easier.
There are, however, some commands that I still struggle with as a human being and no matter how much I love Jesus they do not come easy to me. How do we love our enemies? How do we forgive the unforgivable? How do we leave retribution to God?
There is an innate, God-given, sense of justice within me that makes these specific commands difficult.
Earlier this year I landed in the book of 1 Peter. It’s such a good book of the Bible to read and it’s short, so I decided to camp there for a month. For 30 days I read the 5 chapters daily. When you spend concentrated periods of time in specific scriptures they have a way of embedding themselves in your soul without you knowing it. As a result, I was irritatingly surprised when the words of 1 Peter 3:9 came back to me unannounced.
The specifics are not important except to say that someone I love was on the receiving end of evil and their character was being viciously attacked. As I covered my friend in prayer, I got to witness up close and personally how God protects his children, and eventually, the situation died down. Yay God!
The problem was I still had a serious animosity in my soul against the person who had caused such pain to my friend. Having recently binge-watched all 5 seasons of “Breaking Bad,” I had all kinds of creative ways to deal with this person. None, of course, would honor my Lord, so I quickly had to let those thoughts go… ha!
In all seriousness, as I thought about this person, the words of 1 Peter 3:9 crept into my mind. “Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult…” I was actually glad when these words came; they calmed my spirit. It would not do this person or myself any good to retaliate. God had obviously calmed everything down and I could trust him with any future consequences.
God’s word was not done speaking though.
The second half of the verse slowly crept in. Of course, I wasn’t so quick to believe it. I must be remembering it wrong, so off I went to grab my Bible. There it was so clearly, “… on the contrary, repay evil with blessing…”
Now how am I supposed to do that? I could get behind not repaying evil with evil or insult with insult, but how in the world could I be expected to pray a blessing over this person who had hurt my friend? Is that really what Jesus wants?
The simple answer is… yes. It’s not so we can be super-spiritual; it’s because God knows that praying blessing over evil further disarms it of its power in the situation and over the ones it has hurt.
As it turns out, God was once again right.
Praying over this person was not easy, and I will admit that I had to check myself to be authentic in my words. But as I prayed, the bitterness in my heart and soul began to dissipate and I was reminded that no matter what this person may have done, they are still important to God too.
Walking this road with Jesus is not easy, but if we trust the things he asks us to do and not do in his word, we will find that he is always right.
For Your Reflection…
Praying a blessing over someone who has hurt you or someone you love is not easy. In fact, in your own strength, it is impossible. The good news is all you have to do is ask Jesus to help. He is always more than willing to give you HIS strength to do the impossible.
Who do you need to pray a blessing over today?