"He Is Kind to the Unthankful and the Evil"
by Ken Gardner

Allan Knight Chalmers, in his book High Wind at Noon, tells the story of Peer Holm, who was a world famous engineer. He built bridges, railroads and tunnels in many parts of the world. He became wealthy and famous but later came to experience failure, sickness and poverty. He returned to the small village where he was born and together with his wife and little girl, eked out a meager living.

Peer Holm had a neighbor who owned a fierce dog. Peer warned him that the dog was dangerous, but the old man contemptuously replied, "Hold your tongue, you cursed pauper." One day Peer Holm came home to find the dog at the throat of his little girl. He tore the dog away, but the dog's teeth had gone too deeply and the little girl was dead.

The sheriff shot the dog and the neighbors were bitter against his owner. When sowing time came they refused to sell him any grain. His plowed fields remained bare. Whenever he walked down the road villagers sneered at him. But not Peer Holm. He could not sleep at night for thinking of his neighbor.

Early one morning he arose and got his last half bushel of barley. He climbed the fence and sowed seed in his neighbor's field. Soon the fields revealed what he had done. When the young plants began to sprout, the field of the cruel neighbor became green while part of Peer Holm's field remained bare.

While it is true that we must rebuke those who sin and lovingly encourage them to repent and make restitution, it is also true that we must never be bitter or hold grudges against those who refuse to repent. We do not treat sin as if it were unimportant, but we, like Peer Holm, must return good for evil. God Himself is "kind to the unthankful and the evil" (Luke 6:35) and "makes his sun to rise on the evil and the good and sends rain on the just and the unjust" (Matthew 5:45). In the Sermon on the Mount our Lord said, "do good to them that hate you" (Matthew 5:44). He also admonished, "If ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? for sinners also do even the same" (Luke 6:33). To the brethren at Thessalonica the apostle Paul wrote, "See that none render evil for evil unto any man; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men" (II Thessalonians 5:15). To the Romans Paul wrote, "Recompense to no man evil for evil" (Romans 12:17). Peter made a similar statement: "Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing" (I Peter 3:9). In Romans 12:14 Paul said, "Bless them which persecute you" and in that same context he instructed:

Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:19-21)

The writer of the book of Ecclesiastes warns, "Be not hasty in your spirit to be offended; for resentment abides in the bosom of fools" (7:9, Modern Language Bible).

David serves as a worthy example. He never retaliated against Saul who was seeking his life. In fact, when Saul was killed in battle, David praised, honored, even lamented and wept for the fallen king (II Samuel 1). He blessed the people of Jabesh-gilead for the kindness they showed to Saul. In contrast to David, many of his followers harbored resentment and sought revenge against supporters of Saul. After Saul's death and David's appointment as king "there was long war between the house of Saul and the house of David" (II Samuel 3:1). Abner, commander of forces loyal to Saul, must have seen the foolishness of the continued fighting and grown weary of the strife, as on one occasion he asked:

"Must the sword devour forever?" (II Samuel 2:26).

I've been in congregations where I've felt like asking the same question. . . .