1983) Returning Good for Evil

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Kennedy and Khrushchev, June, 1961


By Lee Strobel in  “God’s Outrageous Claims: Thirteen Discoveries that can Transform Your Life” 

     At the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, as the tension was building toward what could have been the outbreak of World War III, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev sent an urgent message to President John F. Kennedy.  In part, the message said:

You and I should not now pull on the ends of the rope in which you have tied a knot of war, because the harder you and I pull, the tighter the knot will become.  And a time may come when this knot is tied so tight that the person who tied it is no longer capable of untying it, and then the knot will have to be cut.  What that would mean I need not explain to you, because you yourself understand perfectly what dread forces our two countries possess.

     In effect, when you make the decision to return good for evil, you’re choosing to stop yanking on the rope of conflict and making the knot in your relationship so tight that it can never be untied.  By simply dropping your end of the cord, you’re loosening the tension and preserving the possibility that the still-loose knot might somehow be untangled by the two of you.  This maintains the hope — however faint — that reconciliation might someday occur.  As you think of the adversary whose face you’ve brought into your mind, you might be tempted to rule out any likelihood of ever having a civil relationship with him or her.  But don’t write off anything too quickly.

     There were probably some Christians who hated Saul when he was filled with malice and breathing threats and murder against the church.  Who would have guessed that he would become the apostle Paul, proclaiming Jesus Christ as Lord, and preaching love and forgiveness?  The one who treats us as our enemy today may become our brother or sister tomorrow.  Jesus says to treat them today as our brother and sister.

     Hatred writes people off; love holds out hope.


I Peter 3:8-9  —  Finally, all of you, have unity of spirit, sympathy, love of the brethren, a tender heart and a humble mind.  Do not return evil for evil or reviling for reviling; but on the contrary bless, for to this you have been called, that you may obtain a blessing.

Proverbs 20:22  —  Do not say, “I will repay evil”; wait for the Lord, and he will help you.

Romans 12:14-21  —  Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.  Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.  Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; never be conceited.  Repay no one evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all.  If possible, so far as it depends upon you, live peaceably with all.  Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”  No, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals upon his head.”  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

I Peter 3:17  —  For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.

I Corinthians 13:4a…7b —  Love… always hopes, always perseveres.


FORGIVE US OUR TRESPASSES AS WE FORGIVE THOSE WHO TRESPASS AGAINST US.  As we are forgiven by you, may we forgive all who wrong and offend us.  Help us remember that no one can harm us without doing himself a far greater injury in your sight, so that we may be moved to compassion for them instead of anger, moved to pity rather than a desire for revenge.  May we not be tempted to rejoice when they are troubled, nor be grieved when they prosper.  We will not benefit from the downfall of our enemies, so we pray that you have mercy on them, and then also give us the grace to forgive them from our heart.  Amen.

–Martin Luther