Inheriting Blessings

Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.
Repay evil with blessing, so that I might inherit a blessing.

This is a challenging verse, and a troubling one, at least for me. When I am insulted, when I am attacked, when I am met with evil, the urge to respond in kind, in force, it not only tempting, but very nearly overwhelming.  When I am hit, I want to hit back, and I want to hit back hard.

Is that so wrong?

Repay evil with blessing, so that I might inherit a blessing.

What blessing can one possibly offer up to an evildoer? Surely he who is willing to attack me cares little if at all for my feelings towards him. Were my thoughts meaningful to him, surely he would not be attacking in the first place. Were I of importance to him, there would be care and consideration, not anger and ill will. He who does evil has no use and almost certainly no desire for any blessing I might give, and so giving it surely is futile and pointless.

Is this not so?

Repay evil with blessing, so that I might inherit a blessing.

If by giving blessings we inherit blessings, do we then inherit evil by giving evil?  That seems not unreasonable. The one is merely the obverse of the other, and so if we accept the one premise we must necessarily accept the second. We inherit blessings by giving blessings, we inherit evil by giving evil.

No one wishes evil upon himself. No one rationally chooses or hopes for undesirable outcomes. We want good things--regardless of whether we have made good choices, we desire good results. This is the essence of self-interest. 

To repay evil with blessing--to good in the face of evil--is thus no more and no less than our own self-interest. To achieve good results, we must make good choices, and we must take good actions. That others make bad choices and take bad actions is irrelevant. Our inheritance is ours and ours alone.

In the face of evil, what counts as the good choice? We are told this--the choice that arises from sympathy, from love, from care and compassion. The choice that is humble and humane, that is the good choice.

Yet good is the opposite of evil--and thus it is in opposition to evil. If we are called to make good choices, if we are summoned to do that which is good in the face of evil, we are also called to oppose evil. There is no compromise between good and evil--if we choose that which is good we choose to reject that which is evil. There can be no alternate choice in this.

Moreover, repayment is action, and in particular deliberate, intentional action; it is ever and always thus. Thus we are further counseled not to be passive in the face of evil. Rather we are expected to act, and to confront evil by increasing the good in the world. People around us may choose evil--will choose evil; we are well advised to confront that evil with a good choice, with a blessing, that we might obtain for ourselves blessings.

The good choice is not necessarily an easy choice. It is merely the right choice. It is the right choice regardless of what choices others make.

To inherit blessings in all cases, we must give blessings in all situations. As there is no good to be found in evil, there can be no justification for evil. 

Repay evil with blessing, so that I might inherit a blessing. Truly, this is the order of things.

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