An example and a high bar
For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in his steps.
He never sinned, nor ever deceived anyone. He did not retaliate when he was insulted, nor threaten revenge when he suffered. He left his case in the hands of God, who always judges fairly. | 1 Peter 2:21-23 (NLT)
Reading and meditating on these verses takes me to Psalm 100:5,
“For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.”
Psalm 100 is particularly special to me for two reasons. First, I remember singing it (badly of course) as a child when my Mum took me to an Anglican church as a boy and although I was not a Christian at the time and I did not understand much of the service, something of Psalm 100 stuck in me. Second, it was part of the route out of a very low point in my life four or five years ago when I was struggling to come to terms with the pain and hurt that I had experienced from people in my old church who I once regarded as close friends. The route out was the realisation that goodness only exists in God. If it exists elsewhere then it is a miracle!
The current sad news of the devastation in Ukraine brings this truth home. I have heard so many people say, of Ukraine, “I can’t believe this is happening in the 21st century.” As Christians, we know that sin is always there, it may be lurking in the background but is ready to pounce and consume us. Goodness does not inherently exist in the 21st century and it does not grow on its own despite the still widely held “Progress” myth that humanity, year by year, progresses into a better version of itself. Our passage from Peter tells us that for goodness to be present we have to make a choice.
When the going gets tough and we are persecuted for our faith we have to choose to do good. The choice to be good acts as a fire break to sin as it stops the cycle of revenge. We are to choose to do this, not just because it makes sense but because the one we follow sets an example of this to us. The example of our Lord Jesus is so breath-taking in its magnitude that it both humbles us and stirs us to offer up Praise and Worship to the one who is above all. We live in uncertain times but my prayer for you and me is that we will be people that don’t retaliate but repay evil with good. In so doing we can be a small part of the miracle of God’s grace bringing a little bit of goodness into our troubled world.