Do Not Render Evil for Evil Or Railing for Railing

Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing. — 1 Peter 3:9

One day when I was flying on a plane, I noticed that the woman next to me seemed to be seething about something. I asked her if everything was all right, and she erupted in anger about something her husband had done to her. She angrily said, “I am furious at my husband. I’m so mad at him that I am determined to find a way to pay him back for what he did to me! You just watch! I’m going to get him so badly that he’ll be sorry for the rest of his life for his actions! By the time I’m finished, he’ll be sorry he messed with me!”

As I listened to this woman vent these very angry emotions, I thought of how many husbands and wives in the world would probably say these same words about one another from time to time. Her words grieved me deeply, for I knew the raging conflict between this woman and her husband, if not properly resolved and reconciled, would be the key that unlatched the door to their marriage, enabling the devil to come inside and inflict serious harm to their relationship.

The way a husband and wife respond to conflict and disappointment is very important. They can choose to be forgiving and merciful, allowing the conflict and the improper attitudes and behavior to be covered by the blood of Jesus. If they make this choice, the two of them will be empowered to walk in peace, to experience uninterrupted unity, and to remain the powerful team God intended them to be as husband and wife.

However, a married couple can also choose to constantly remind one another of their past wrongs and failures, holding each other hostage by laying the blame and guilt for every problem at one another’s feet. If the couple chooses this latter course, they will open the door for the devil to get into their relationship and make a mess of their marriage.

When Peter writes to husbands and wives in First Peter 3, he urges them not to let this kind of wicked behavior be a part of their married lives. He says, “Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing” (1 Peter 3:9).

Notice that Peter says, “Not rendering evil for evil….” The King James Version I am quoting begins with the word “not” because the Greek denotes a strong prohibition to stop something that is already in progress. The implication is that the husbands and wives to whom Peter was writing were already carrying out these improper and destructive actions; therefore, he was strongly warning and forbidding them to stop this wrong behavior. The Greek actually means, “Stop it! Don’t do it anymore! You should never do this!”

Then he used the word “rendering” to describe the attitude that many of them seemed to be demonstrating to each other and that he was forbidding them to continue. The word “rendering” is the Greek word apodidomi, which actually means to pay back. It is the idea of getting back at someone for what that person did to you. It refers to sending back exactly what was sent to you. You could say that this word pictures a person who is determined to do to someone else exactly what the offender did to him. In other words, this is payback time!

How many times have you heard husbands and wives say they are going to “get back” at their spouse for what he or she did to them? I’m telling you, friend, this is the wrong route to take!

What you sow is exactly what you reap. It is far better for you to sow mercy and forgiveness than to get into the business of sowing bitterness. Even though it may seem very difficult to forgive and to let go of the offense, it is far easier to take this route than to sow wrong seed and thus get trapped in a destructive cycle of sowing and reaping bitterness and strife that will ultimately hurt you, your marriage, and your children.

Peter tells us, “Not rendering evil for evil….” The word “evil” is the Greek word loidoria. This Greek word tells us exactly what the husbands and wives to whom Peter was writing must have been feeling. This word loidoria pictures a person who feels (whether or not those feelings are based on actual truth) that he or she has been ill-treated, misused, berated, and abused. This person considers himself victimized, oppressed, mishandled, harassed, manhandled, violated, defiled, imposed upon wrongly, debased, and humiliated. The Greek word loidoria (“evil”) thus projects the ideas of insult, injury, hurt, and damage.

Peter’s words in this verse could accurately be taken to mean:

“Do not pay back one insult with another insult.…”
“Do not get back at your spouse by injuring him or her the same way you were injured.…”
“Do not retaliate against your spouse by abusing him or her in the same way you have felt abused….”
“Do not pay your spouse back with the same treatment he or she has given to you.…”

Before you rush into “railing” at your spouse for the injustice that you perceive has been done to you, let God first speak to your heart about your own role in the matter. “Railing” at one another is not God’s way for you or your spouse to respond to disappointment. That is the way the flesh responds, but it is not God’s way in a marital relationship. He has a far better way for you to respond that will release power and bring blessing to your marriage!

Peter says you and your spouse are called that you should inherit a “blessing.” Do you see the word “blessing”? It is the Greek word eulogia, a compound of eu and logos. The word eu means good or swell, and it describes something wonderful or pleasurable. The word logos is the Greek word for words. When compounded together, the word eulogia means good, swell, wonderful, and pleasurable words.

You can be sure that at some point along the way, your spouse will disappoint you and let you down. Even if he or she doesn’t mean to do it, it will happen simply because your mate is human or because you have expectations that are impossible for anyone to meet 100 percent of the time.

So when your flesh gets riled up and feels like it has been violated or mistreated, don’t immediately blow your top and start acting ugly in response. Instead, run to the Lord and ask Him to help you perceive this situation correctly. If you’ll let the Holy Spirit work in you, He will show you how to return kindness for every injustice you perceive has been done to you. A right response from you can change the entire situation. A wrong response from you will only aggravate the situation and make it worse.

Instead of paying back acts of unkindness with harsh, retaliatory remarks or calculated acts of revenge, make the decision that you are going to respond to every incident by speaking a blessing over your spouse! In other words, when you think of something negative that your spouse has done, determine not to give in to the urges of your flesh to retaliate. Choose instead to return those inconsiderate acts with words of love.

If something has happened that tempts you to be bitter, refuse to take offense. Instead of responding with words that attack and tear down your spouse, decide that you’re going to speak words that build him or her up. Instead of paying back an insult with an insult, make the decision to speak a blessing!

That day when the woman sitting next to me on the airplane talked about how she was going to pay her husband back for the things he had done to her, I could see that she was headed down a road of revenge that would only aggravate her situation. The same is true in your marriage. It’s all right to talk about things that disappoint you, but that kind of discussion needs to take place in a healthy, productive way. Make sure your mouth is filled with sweet words instead of harsh words — and never let yourself get into the retaliation business, for that will only make your situation worse.

The Holy Spirit will show both you and your spouse how to respond in every situation with words of kindness. He’ll fill your mouth with good things if you’ll allow Him to work in you this way. In fact, as you speak the blessings the Holy Spirit wants you to speak instead of making argumentative, insulting remarks to your spouse, your words will become the very force that turns the situation around in your marriage! 

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My Prayer for Today

Lord, forgive me for allowing myself to get so upset in the past that I have acted unkindly toward my mate and made ugly remarks in moments of rage. I’m wrong for permitting my flesh to control me in such an ungodly way. Even though my spouse has been wrong as well, he (or she) couldn’t have been any uglier or more hurtful than I was when I spoke those harsh, retaliatory words. Please help me to become more like Jesus — to release blessing after blessing as I speak only words of kindness to my spouse. I know that my words have the power of life and death, so help me turn around every difficult situation as I start speaking blessings into my marital relationship!

I pray this in Jesus’ name!

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My Confession for Today

I confess that I speak blessings into my relationship with my spouse. I don’t speak curses, nor do I pay back abuse with abuse or insult with insult. I am called to be a blessing; therefore, I AM a blessing, and my mouth speaks good things even when I am tempted to say words that are not so edifying. I refuse to get into the retaliation business, for I am called to be in the blessing business! I take every opportunity — both pleasurable times as well as moments of conflict — to speak blessings over myself, over my spouse, and over our relationship together!

I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!

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Questions to Answer

1. Have there been times when the Holy Spirit told you to keep a tight rein on your tongue and to respond to a situation with positive words instead of ugly words? Did you obey what the Spirit prompted you to do, or did you go ahead and verbalize the anger you felt?

2. What happened when you responded to a bad situation with words of kindness instead of with retaliatory remarks? Or what happened when you returned insult for insult in an argument with your spouse?

3. Are you willing to ask the Holy Spirit to prepare you for the next time you face a potentially explosive situation in your marriage? Will you make a firm decision beforehand to respond with great patience and kindness so your response can disarm all potential for strife in the situation?