This weeks word prompt was the word blessing. Normally that makes me think about counting blessings and growing gratitude. A kitchen splattered spiral notebook that holds my blessings in barely legible scrawl. For my eyes only. Daily reminders to ponder God's goodness.
Or blessing leads me down a table of pies, stuffing, and gravy bowls and families circled up table side mentioning a few blessings of the year.
But today I read this verse containing the word blessing and my mind ran down a different trail...
"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
The verses that follow this admonition discuss a promise of blessing for those who don't engage in evil for evil behavior.
"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 they 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.'"
As a high school student I carried this exact passage around in my Jansport book bag pocket. I repeated these words in to myself. Frequently. It was one of my verses. I can picture the tattered piece of paper that said 1 Peter 3:10 in smudged sharpie.
Reading these verses again mixes nostalgia with the sting of regret in all the ways I haven't lived up to these words.
Hitting Home Ministries addresses these verses in this way (speaking to wives),
"A foolish woman may be right in her assessment of her husband’s faults and failures, but she is often unwise in how she responds to them. She fails to see that her negative reactions to his negative behavior are just as unbiblical and selfish in nature as his actions. She also fails to see how ineffective her emotional responses prove to be." (The Difference Between a Wise and Foolish Woman).
I thought about how these words have played out in my marriage. I thought about how often these words have played out in my relationships with friends and family. Or strangers I brush up against and get rubbed the wrong way. I thought about how they have played out with broken friendships, ended relationships.
Often times it is our reaction to evil that becomes evil and makes us equally guilty.
Like a cycle of evil. I pay back evil with evil and other people get hurt.
I think it is interesting that Peter warns not to pay back evil with evil or insult with insult because by doing this we may inherit a blessing.
We don't become the evil that was given to us. We rise above.
It is so true that often the evil I receive I become (and worse) when I decide to pay back.
When I sling mud it boomerangs and comes back to me, leaving me filthy too.
I don't think I've ever repaid evil for evil and felt good about it later. Like eating poison it only perpetuates the pain. I suppose that's why Peter includes this call to seek peace and pursue it.
Often times I see things from my view only. My gaze is glazed over by my painful experience. I can quickly distort the picture from my perspective and lose the focus making me more willing to repay evil for evil. Making my lips deceitful and distorted like the above passage describes.
Lysa TyrKeurst writes about a friendship ending messy in her book Uninvited.
She discusses all the ways she wants to inwardly justify herself in the ending relationship. The internal gavel she can swing to declare herself not guilty. Her wrestle with the "piercing of two souls" in the ending of a friendship. She offers the strategy that God gave her.
"Truth says I have an enemy but it's not really her. She may very well be the cause of some hurt in my life, but she's not my enemy. And I may very well be the cause of some hurt in her life, but I'm not her enemy. We have an enemy, and it's not each other." She describes the strategy God gave her to make a small list of positive things about this person as a weapon against the Real Enemy, Satan, the divider of Souls.
I want that. I know sometimes I've done this and sometimes I've done the exact opposite of this. I've joined Satan in his evil by reacting with evil.
Because sometimes as the adage says, revenge is best served cold, but sometimes it only leaves you cold. Isolated. Bitter.
I see the power of Lysa's strategy in big falling outs and busted friendships, but I also see the wisdom of this strategy in the daily dirt of close relationships.
It's within close context with immediate family that the build up of hurt forms.
It's here we most need to list the blessings of those we bump shoulders with in our house.
List the blessings of a person who currently doesn't feel like a blessing. Defeat the evil response I might want to have before it starts by realizing in these moments who my enemy is and who it isn't. Refusing to give into cynicism and resentment that Satan eagerly offers me by offering a list. A list of goodness about someone God made in His image. Deciding to not offer insult for insult, but blessing instead. That I may receive the blessing of protection. Perhaps sometimes it's the protection from my own evil. That evil pierces us most deeply.