“Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else.”
There are three things that we can take from this as first glance:
1. don’t retaliate
2. try with all that is in you to be kind to other believers
3. also be kind to non-believers (“everyone else”)
Let’s look at the context. Read 5:12-15.
1. Verse 12 has three points to consider and these tie into our one another.
a. “respect those who work hard among you.” There are many in the church who work hard for the Lord (pastors, teachers, nursery workers, trustees, cleaners, kitchen helpers, etc.) Be thankful for what they do for the Lord and for you.
b. “who are over you in the Lord” Some people by nature have difficulty with submission, but that should not be the case among God’s people. Leaders of the church are over the congregation “in the Lord.” The leaders are responsible to God for how they lead, and the congregation is answerable to the Lord for how they follow. This doesn’t mean someone can’t ask the leader why we are going in a particular direction, but once it is clear that the direction is from the Lord, all should follow as following the Lord. The overall purpose is to glorify Christ, the leader is merely a servant of Christ as is the follower, just with a different role in the church.
c. “who admonish you” sometimes Christians must be admonished which means to “reprove mildly, but seriously.” We all have times when we need guided back on the path, even the leaders must be held accountable. This is an area where misunderstanding can occur and someone could perceive that they were wronged when they were merely being admonished, and human nature could fall into desiring to pay back wrong for wrong contrary to verse 15.
2. Verse 13 has two pieces of information for us.
a. “Hold them in highest regard in love because of their work.” Certainly all God’s people are on an equal plain in God’s grace, but He does desire that we show proper respect for those who are working for Him on our behalf. (This even applies to the pastor as he sits in on a Sunday School class, as the teacher is working for God on behalf of all the students, including the pastor.)
b. “Live in peace with each other.” This ties in with what we are studying Sunday mornings in 1 Corinthians. God is not pleased with divisions in HIS Church. We are to work through our disagreements, remembering that God’s way is the way for His church, not my way or your way. We are brothers and sisters. God does not want His children bickering and feuding. Discuss how this verse ties in with our “one another” passage.
3. Verse 14 gives us some practical tips on how to maintain peace in the church and prevent people from being wronged.
a. “warn those who are idle.” The quote, “idleness is the devil’s workshop” may not be in the Bible, but idleness is certainly a seed bed for dissension. People giving their all to the work are less likely to complain about the work that is being done. Besides the idle person brings no good to the work of Christ or to the encouragement of the church.
b. “encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone” Discuss how these can help the church, and think of practical examples of how to put these in practice.