Read Introduction to 1 Thessalonians
“See that no one renders evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue what is good both for yourselves and for all“
but always pursue what is good
Paul now gives the other side of the coin of retaliation. The word “but” is the “but” of strong contrast in the Greek. In contrast to retaliation “pursue whatever is intrinsically good (Greek) for the other person.” “Instead of seeking to injure someone, put great effort in seeking their good.”
The word “pursue” in this passage means to follow after, strive for, to pursue the “good.” The idea is to put some earnestness in going after the good of other people. “Don’t be half-hearted when doing them good.” Paul used this term in Philippians.
“Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me…. I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:12-14).
Paul uses “pursue” in the sense of a foot race in the above passage. “Run after the good. Don’t stroll along after the good for you will not win the race for good. The goal is to win the race, not just participate in it. Chase it down, don’t saunter along.” This takes energy, intense effort, quickness and a definite goal.
The word “always” is an easy word to miss. The principle of pursuing the intrinsic good of other people is not something we do occasionally but something that we must “always” pursue. There are no exceptions.
both for yourselves and for all
The church at Thessalonica faced protracted persecution from the non-Christian community. It would be an easy reaction to retaliate against them but this would not be intrinsically good for the Christian or the non-Christian. Persecution can cause Christians to turn on one another as well.
God wants us to put full effort into helping people.
Many of us put a half-hearted effort into what we do. This always yields half-hearted results. We will revert to type quickly if we are not earnest about pursuing the intrinsic good of other people. Our spiritual reflexes are so poor that if we do not train them to react when the time comes, they will revert to basic instinct. We respond in kind.
People can say some untrue and cruel things about us. This may stab us like a spear. It is not enough to stuff this in our soul. We must deal with it by “pursuing the good.” We cannot be half-hearted about it or we will never make it. We will open our mouth and put our foot in it.
It is tempting to avenge ourselves. “If someone injures me, I injure them. After all, I am justified in doing this because they did it to me first.” The heat of passion can get us into trouble but if we have the idea of pursuing the good no matter what happens to us then maturity will have the upper hand.
“But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, “that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. “For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? “And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? ”Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:44-48).
The law of the jungle is to give evil for evil. When we give evil for evil, we behave like animals. When we pay back evil for good, we function like the Devil. When we give good for evil we conduct ourselves like God.
None of us can get through life without a mountain of unfair treatment by others. How we respond to unfair treatment depends on whether we pursue the good.
“Servants, be submissive to your masters with all fear, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the harsh. For this is commendable, if because of conscience toward God one endures grief, suffering wrongfully. For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God. For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps:
“Who committed no sin,
Nor was deceit found in His mouth”;
who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously; who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls” (1 Peter 2:18-25).
Eternity is too long and life too short to get into a mode of revenge. If we move into this mode, it will sour our soul. Married folks get into verbal duels that end worse than the beginning. Harsh remarks bring harsh replies. If they do not have the maturity to stop this cycle, they will infuse attitudes of antipathy into their souls. They will begin to hold grudges. Grudge builds on grudge. Someone must become mature somewhere and break the deadlock.