Do not repay evil for evil or abuse for abuse; but, on the contrary, repay with a blessing. It is for this that you were called – that you might inherit a blessing.
Rock, Paper, Scissors
My older brother talked me into playing “Rock, Paper, Scissors” once as we were riding somewhere in the back seat of the car. Whoever won got to hit the other person on the arm with two fingers. That was the rule. But then my brother licked his fingers so it would sting a little more and, at some point, he transgressed the boundaries of what I thought was a legal hit. Of course, I had to hit him back. That tit for tat quality must be written in our DNA. And, since he was five years older, if I couldn’t hold my own and hit him as hard as he hit me, I could resort to “telling” and get him in trouble with Mom.
What does it mean to inhabit a world that chooses not to “repay evil for evil or abuse for abuse”? What does it mean to live a life that brings blessing instead? I am sure that Paul is not talking about someone breaking into your house with murderous intent or the warring of nation states (though there are those who walk the walk even there). But escalating the argument to the ridiculous only serves to let us avoid the command that we are called to live in the world as agents of blessing. We are dissenters in our dog eat dog, tit for tat, world. Jesus forgives his torturers – not after, but while they were swinging the hammer and throwing dice for his clothes. He summons us to see and live such a world.
This is not simple. It’s much easier to think of Christianity as my team, my club. It is a badge I put on the wall or maybe even a doorknocker on my front door. It is like wearing team colors on game day, a blue ribbon at the Oscars, or a flag pin on the campaign trail. It’s a statement not a discipleship. But Jesus keeps walking ahead and summoning us to catch up. He is in the world to bless. And we are supposed to be his continuing presence in the world.