Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic,
love one another, be compassionate and humble.
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.
For, “Whoever would love life and see good days
must keep their tongue from evil and their lips from deceitful speech.
They must turn from evil and do good; they must seek peace and pursue it.
For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer,
but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”
(1 Peter 3:8–12)
REPAYING EVIL WITH BLESSINGS: FORGIVENESS
When I read the story of Terri Roberts, the mother of the man who gunned down fifteen Amish girls in Pennsylvania in 2006, I was stunned. She reached out to the Amish families, asking them to forgive her son. They didn’t reject her but embraced her, and a strong friendship grew and flourished between them. How difficult it must have been for the bereaved Amish families to “repay evil with blessing!”
Unlike the Amish believers’ response, a so-called “natural” response when we are treated abysmally is to lash out. We’ve been hurt, and we want to hurt the perpetrator in return. Repaying evil for evil, however, sets off a seemingly never-ending cycle of destruction and bitterness. The disciple Peter was aware of this when he wrote to believers scattered around the provinces of Rome, those who were experiencing deep persecution. He knew they were being abused for their beliefs, but he did not want them to mimic their persecutors.
Terri Roberts and her new friends embracing each other is a striking example of forgiveness, but we can see and experience similar stories in our communities every day:
- Old rivals forgive each other and seek to do good,
- Siblings come together in harmony after years of strife,
- Spouses work through marriage counseling to save their relationship.
Repaying evil with blessings might not be the first thing we want to do when wronged, but when we bring the matter before God, he can give us the strength to forgive.
Lord God, bring unity to believers in our churches, throughout our communities, and around the world. Help us to love each other and to put the needs of others above our own. Amen.
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION
- How do you think the bereaved Amish families were able to extend forgiveness and welcome Terri as a friend?
- When has God called you to forgive someone, perhaps sacrificially? How did you react?
- How could you embrace forgiveness today?
Amy Boucher Pye
Amy is a writer, speaker, and spiritual director. She’s the author of several books, including 7 Ways to Pray: Time-Tested Practices for Encountering God. She loves writing devotional thoughts, including for the world-renowned Our Daily Bread. She lives with her family in North London. Find her at amyboucherpye.com or on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
Ministry of Reconciliation
Reconciliation is the process of restoring broken relationships, of building something new from the tender soil of forgiveness.