“What makes a man like Ringo, Doc? What makes him do the things he does?” Wyatt Earp asked.
“A man like Ringo has got a great big hole, right in the middle of him. He can never kill enough, or steal enough, or inflict enough pain to ever fill it,” Doc Holliday replied.
“What does he need?”
As crime soars and society breaks down around us, I believe that local churches can and will play a crucial role as oases of love in an increasingly chaotic world.
At least, we can serve that role—if we develop a thick Christian community.
The many “one another” commands of the NT show what normal Christian church life should be like. For example, consider this verse:
See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek what is good for one another and for all people (1 Thess 5:15 NASB).
There’s an old Klingon proverb that says, “Revenge is a dish best served cold.” Paul takes the opposite view. Don’t serve the dish at all. Do not repay evil for evil.
That’s a hard word to hear, and not just for Klingons! Retaliation is built into the fabric of most cultures and communities. How many novels and movies are driven by revenge? And we like that! Who doesn’t cheer on Inigo Montoya when he finally faces the six-fingered man and repeats his famous phrase: “Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”
Nevertheless, Paul says revenge should have no part in the Christian community, no matter what the larger culture says. Our response to evil should not be retaliation but love.
Notice, though, that Paul’s counter-cultural approach to retaliation assumes that a normal church life means doing more than gathering to worship on Sunday morning. It implies the church will engage in corporate action and actively pursue opportunities to love the very people who have done us evil.
That message is not easy to hear:
Someone has said that there are three standards: first, the standard of the pagan world, which does evil in response to good; second, the standard of the so-called cultured world, which is to do good towards those who do good to them; third, the standard of Christian faith, which is to do good to those who do evil to us. This is contrary to the natural unsaved person; it is contrary to natural ethics, but it is according to the Word of God (Walvoord and Hitchcock, 1 & 2 Thessalonians, pp. 100-101).
The Christian standard is different. There is nothing “natural” about that command. It is not the way of the world because it is otherworldly, i.e., it comes from heaven, not from earth.
God is no Klingon. Instead of serving up a cold dish of revenge to His enemies, He served up Jesus to die for them (see Rom 5:10).