17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all.
The exhortations of verses 17 to 21 relate to the believer’s relationship to both Christians and non-Christians.
17 Repay no one evil for evil,
The Old Testament principle was “an eye for an eye” in a national theocracy. But the New Testament principle is non-retaliation in terms of individual persons. Retaliation only escalates conflict into a vicious cycle of revenge. Revenge then is a double-edged sword. A vindictive person is not noble but ugly.
The words “no one” indicate that there are no exceptions to the principle.
1 Pe 3: 9 not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing.
but give thought [think beforehand] to do what is honorable [right, noble]
The believer is to be proactive (think beforehand) about doing what is right in God’s system of values rather than thinking first of what is evil. Christians are to think ahead about the implications of their actions and what kind of effect they will have on others, knowing that everything they do has an influence on those who are watching. Will they see a noble life or a worthless life that is just like everyone else’s? We owe people a different kind of life because we know and represent Christ on earth.
“Honorable” is what is beautiful or noble. A vindictive person is not noble but ugly.
in the sight of all.
We need to take into consideration how others view us rather than running roughshod over them. “All” includes non-Christians as well as Christians. We owe everyone, even our enemies, a demonstration of a life influenced by Christ.
2 Co 8: 21 providing honorable things, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men.
Return good for evil rather than evil for evil.
The inclination to retaliate against those who treat us unjustly is a very powerful impulse we all have. To harbor resentment and retaliation boomerangs on the person who holds it. Vengeance is nothing but wounded pride. When we retaliate we hold the deep-seated belief that someone must pay. The attitude of rancor and reprisal is at the heart of this. Deterioration of disposition will be the result (He 12:15).
But the principle of getting even with those who hurt us is anti-Christian. We need to take proactive action against this tendency. If we do yield to vengeance, then evil has won. The desire to get even is outside the will of God. Vindictiveness destroys the distinctive Christian virtue of doing what is best for others.
Excellent food should be set on a beautiful platter.