Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Blessings for Evil.

Peter's often known as Jesus' hothead disciple. We like to talk about the reckless guy who pulled a sword, or stepped out the boat. This is certainly a part of Peter's character but, as with most people who are not constructs of one trait, Peter is much more complicated. And it can be hard to reconcile the hothead Peter we talk about with the 'Rock' that Jesus was going to build his church on, or the apostle who died famously for his faith in Rome.

Peter also wrote two books of the new Testament, and while not particularly popular or long, these books are rich. 1 Peter 3:8-9, for example, carries one of the greatest summaries of Jesus teachings. Specifically "do not repay evil for evil or insult for insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called..."

The idea of repaying evil with blessing is one that at first glance seems like a simple 'nice' idea. But the further you think about it the more radical it becomes. You'll notice, for example, that there's not limit or qualification on the evil talked about in this verse. This could range from someone 'calling you a name' all the way to an enemy of the state threatening (and performing) violence against you. There's no limit on the evil and no limit on the blessing. the line "repay evil with blessing" is not a line that's meant to sound nice. It's ridiculous, radical life-changing even world-changing teachings.

Peter links this aspect of choosing to respond to evil with blessing to five other qualities.

  1. Harmony - Harmony doesn't sweep problems under the rug for the sake of harmony. Harmony recognizes and deals with the hurt and problems which come. In the same way, the way we bless those who hurt us should recognize the hurt and work to repair.
  2. Sympathy - Linked with empathy. Recognizing that those who do harm do not do so in a vacuum. It does not excuse evil, but it does seek to find humanity in enemies who we tend to dehumanize.
  3. Love - Loving as brothers means loving 'just because.'
  4. Compassion - Compassion means giving to those when we have no requirement to give. Compassion on those who do evil to us recognizes evil acts as cries for help with no language to express it. Blessing those who do evil seeks to heal the hurt of those who harm us as much as ourselves.
  5. Humility - All these qualities are enhanced when we realize the truth about ourselves as imperfect beings. We too are guilty of harming and doing harm, regardless of extent. This should all us to connect, understand, and then bless.
For discussion on the topic of blessing those who do evil to us we're not going to talk about who has harmed us and how we act specifically. Instead we're going to look at the five qualities of harmony, sympathy, love, compassion and humility and ask ourselves two questions for each in turn. 

1) How does this quality rate in my life with those I struggle against?
2) How do we improve this quality in ourselves?

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