Sermon for 17 May 2020

Sermon Don’t Repay Evil With Evil
When I was younger I did a lot of hitchhiking. That was back when I had long hair. On one particular day I was standing by the side of the road with my thumb out. I noticed a car coming toward me. The odd thing that caught my attention was that several people were yelling and had their arms out the window. At the last minute I realised those arms had hands that were full of large stones. They began throwing them at me. Fortunately I was able to duck behind a tree. The rocks landed hard. Between the speed of the throw and the speed of the vehicle, they were moving fast.
That car passed, and right behind was another vehicle. It was an older truck and as it went by I saw the driver hold up one finger (not what you’re thinking) in a gesture of “wait a minute”. He drove quickly out of sight and I felt like he was in pursuit of the first car.
A few minutes later he returned and offered me a ride. As we drove down the road I saw the rock-throwing car, off the road, axle deep in mud and up against the tree, smashed. My driver said “Bet they won’t throw rocks again”. They were yelling at him and this time he held up a different finger to wave back.
I realised what had happened. He had forced the car off the road in retaliation.
My first response was satisfaction. Lines about Karma came to mind and I thought they got what they deserved.
On second thought, what just happened? As much as I appreciated what he did, was he not just the bigger bully. He had an older truck and more skill but really what would happen in the future? They seemed to know him. They would likely retaliate. It is a vicious circle.
The scripture today is “Don’t repay evil with evil”
We know that is the right response. But it may not be our first one.
There is a certain satisfaction when an evil doer gets their “just desserts”
We may not instigate it but if “karma” does, that’s ok. There are times when people doubt their faith because God didn’t respond the way we would have. How often have I heard people complain that innocent people get cancer while criminals remain healthy. Can you imagine a movie where the guilty people got away with something and then the movie ends before the bad guy gets killed?
Revenge is a basic instinct that we justify by calling it “Justice”. OR sometimes we call it punishment.
Our legal system is based on punishment, not correction.
There are viable alternatives to our system but public pressure is opposed. Rehabilitation, community service and justice circles, are viewed poorly.
It is embedded in us that people need to be punished.
It is true that some need to be kept separate from the population but
So often I hear people advocate that if you are faced with a bully the best thing to do is out-violence him or her.
Right now there is an underlying current of revenge against China. I hear people say, “they took our jobs and sent us a virus, we should get even.”
1) The first problem with repaying evil with evil is that there is always going to be a bigger evil. It escalates. That is how we end up with gangs and feuds
People take sides and violence breaks out.
2)The next problem is that it divides people. When people take sides then they can’t or won’t talk to the people on the other side. More and more we see this in our world. People are divided along political, religious, conspiracy ideals and then they are labelled and unreachable.
3)Another problem with using evil is it uses up resources. The most obvious example is the billions of dollars spent on war, but here are many much smaller losses. When there is a divide in a family they won’t share possessions so more possessions need to be purchased. Divorces are notorious for costing a lot as two people wo are not getting along are expected to not share anything. There has been a lot of money and resources wasted on anger.
4) Finally it destroys life. Not just in the war aspect of bombs and bullets but also in the way that anger limits possibilities. It can destroy the hopes and dreams and motivation of others. An unkind word, spoken even in retaliation, can destroy. Going back to the bully situation; often a bully acts the way they do because they just want some human interaction and that is the only way they know how to socialize. It is hard not to repay evil, but it is the solution to living together as a human race.
When Peter says this statement he was not in a easy world, He was in a world where violence was commonplace. He lived in a society where crucifixion was an everyday matter. 11 of the 12 disciples died a violent death. They were persecuted and killed. He knew what it was like to be the recipient of violence and yet he makes this statement.
Jesus states the same sentiment when he says “You have heard it said, an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth but I say – do not resist someone who does evil”; (otherwise we would have a toothless and blind populace) He says “turn the other cheek” “if someone takes your cloak give them your coat also”. Many times Jesus says do not repay evil.
Basically, someone has to stop. I always find it interesting when someone says “ I’ll stop being mean when they stop” or we will stop the war after they lay down their weapons” In other words, they are the better person or country. They are the people who are correcting the situation.
We are the ones called to stop the spiral.
We are the ones to be the peacekeepers.
So the question is, How do you not repay evil for evil?
I have 2 suggestions:
1)The first is to walk away. This takes more courage than you think because you don’t get to defend the lies that are being told about you. You don’t get the last word, but it does prevent escalation. When Jesus was dragged from town and was about to be stoned to death, he simply walked away.
It is not always the answer as sometimes the situation needs to be addressed.
2)That is when you seek a positive response. Is there some way you can alleviate the situation? Is there some way you can breach the barriers that have been erected? Jesus suggests that when a soldier forces you to walk a mile, (which by law they could) offer to walk two. Change the dynamics Try and bring a different perspective. Try to see those involved as human.
It is not an easy task but if we set out with the idea that we will not repay evil for evil we will find better ways.
There are many stories of how someone in the face of unkindness, intentional hurt, or pain repaid with love and compassion and changed the negative situation to positive. Hopefully we will all be able to add our story to that list.
There is enough hurt in the world. Lets be the change
God, Make us channels of your peace. Help us to see the human side in each person. Help us to know everyone is a child of yours. Help us to break through the barriers that keep us apart. Where possible help us to heal the divisions and if not possible help us to forgive ourselves and the others. Keep us from inhibiting life. Whether that is physical or emotional or spiritual, help us to be the light that brighten the darkness. Help us to overcome evil with your love.
We pray now for people who are close to us, We pray for others who especially need pray at this time.
Now we pray in the way Jesus taught us.
We repeat together the Lord’s Prayer
Our Father who art in heaven
Hallowed by thy name
Thy kingdom come,
thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven
Give us this day our daily bread
and forgive us our trespasses
as we forgive those who trespass against us
lead us not into temptation
but deliver us from evil
for thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory
forever and ever
Opening Prayer
Hymn – 574 Come let us Sing
Scripture 1 Peter 3: 8-14
Lord’s Prayer
Hymn 371 Open my Eyes
Go now in Peace
Go now in peace, Never be afraid
God will go with you, each hour of every day
Go now in faith, steadfast strong and true
Know God will guide you in all you do,
Go now in love and show you believe
Reach out to others so all the world can see
God will be there, watching from above
Go now in peace, in faith and in love
Amen, Amen, Amen