“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)
As soon as I read the person’s comment on social media, I felt my blood pressure rise. The words insulted me on a deep level and questioned my integrity as a believer. Immediately, I wanted to defend myself. I began remembering and searching for scriptures that would disprove this person's opinion and validate my stance. But as I searched my Bible app, I sensed a conviction in my spirit.
I admit I didn’t want to listen. After all, didn’t I need to prove this person wrong? Didn’t they need to know their words were not OK? But the longer I sat in my recliner, pausing instead of reacting, the more I knew a retort would not accomplish anything. A response made in self-righteous anger would only fuel dissension.
This was not the first time someone said something offensive to me, either on social media or in person. Often, the world around us can seem like a minefield where we never know how people are going to respond to our words.
So what do we do when we feel the need to defend ourselves? How do we distinguish between defending ourselves and defending Jesus? How do we know when to speak and when to stay silent?
Let’s look at the Gospels, in which no one claimed more fierce loyalty to Jesus than Peter did. He even said he would die for Jesus. (Luke 22:33) When the Roman soldiers and high priests came to arrest Jesus, Peter cut off the ear of the high priest’s servant Malchus. But instead of letting Peter defend Him, Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?” (John 18:11, NIV). Jesus made it clear that the disciple’s job was not to defend Him with violence or in anger.
Later, in 1 Peter, we see a complete transformation in this disciple. God opened his eyes to see that retaliation against those who wrong us does not serve His purposes, and Peter instead gave this command to the Church:
“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).
To be certain, we can trust that the Lord, our Advocate, never asks us to tolerate abusive situations or relationships and wants us to live in freedom. Seeking help and removing ourselves from such situations is different from knee-jerk reactions of wounded pride. In today’s world of instant replies, it has never been easier to react based on our first emotions rather than respond with intentionality and love. Our enemy knows this. He seeks to divide us and provoke arguments, and often we fall blindly into his schemes.
But when we let God take His rightful place as our Defender and respond to others in His love, something beautiful happens. Instead of the focus being on us, it turns to Him. People are drawn to God in us instead of being repelled — because they notice something contrary to the me-first attitude our culture promotes.
Jesus has already won the battle against our true enemy. One day, Christ will return to claim those He calls His own. But until then, He asks us to love others. When we follow this simple but often difficult command, we don’t have to worry about fighting for ourselves because He fights our enemy for us. Our armor is His Truth, and it gives us surpassing peace.
God, thank You for being our Defender. When anger rises, help us to see who our true enemy is and to know that the only armor we need is the armor You provide through Your Spirit of Truth. When we’re tempted to repay evil for evil, may we choose Your peace and blessing instead. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
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FOR DEEPER STUDY
Leviticus 19:18, “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.” (NIV)
Why do you think it’s so difficult to let God be our Defender instead of trying to defend ourselves? What do you think you would gain by following Peter’s command to repay evil with blessing?
We’d love to hear from you! Share your thoughts in the comments.
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