How should Christians respond when others treat them poorly? This is a challenging question that many believers face. The Bible offers guidance on how to handle difficult people and situations with grace and love.
If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: The Bible encourages believers to treat others with kindness and compassion, even when they are mistreated. Key verses include Romans 12:14, Matthew 5:44, 1 Peter 3:9, and Proverbs 15:1.
Turning the Other Cheek
In Matthew 5:39, Jesus teaches his followers to “turn the other cheek” when faced with persecution or aggression. This verse is part of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, where he lays out his moral and ethical teachings. Specifically, Jesus states, “But I tell you, do not resist an evil person.
If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.” This radical command calls on Christians to not retaliate or seek revenge when wronged, but instead to respond peacefully and resist meeting violence with more violence.
Turning the other cheek reflects the Christian values of forgiveness, grace, and love for enemies. It demonstrates trust in God’s justice and defuses conflict and harm. While a difficult teaching, it remains a cornerstone of Christian pacifism and nonviolent resistance movements.
The verse has inspired famous advocates for peace like Martin Luther King Jr. who wrote, “The aftermath of nonviolence is the creation of the beloved community, while the aftermath of violence is tragic bitterness.”
In Luke 6:27-36, Jesus again preaches a message of radical, counter-cultural love for enemies and non-retaliation when harmed. He instructs his followers, “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”
(v. 27-28). Jesus calls them to show undeserved generosity by giving to all who ask and not demanding stolen goods back (v. 30-31). He summarizes the passage saying, “Treat others the same way you want them to treat you” (v.31), commonly known as “the Golden Rule.”
Just like Matthew 5:39, Jesus advocates responding to wrongs with love and forgiveness rather than revenge. He argues God will reward this approach, whereas hatred will only breed more hatred. Importantly, Jesus asks believers to show this unique kind of love to all people, following God’s example of letting “His sun rise on the evil and the good.”
(v. 35). Christians believe his commands, while challenging, offer the path to peace if radically practiced by enough people.
Romans 12:17-21 contains some of the Apostle Paul’s most significant instructions on overcoming evil with good. After urging Christians to live at peace with everyone (v.18), Paul writes some of the most powerful words in the Bible: “Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord” (v.19).
This directly echoes Jesus’ teaching in the Gospels. In contrast to society’s norms, followers of Christ must trust God to right all wrongs in His timing. As people made in God’s image (Genesis 1:27), Christians have a responsibility to forgive.
Paul insists evil can only be conquered by good, writing “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (v.21). Just like Jesus, he calls on believers to give generously to enemies, leading to changed hearts. Paul’s words remain the blueprint for Christian pacifism in the church today.
Leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. leaned on these verses, proving their revolutionary power when applied. The early church overcame intense persecution using these peaceful practices.
Bless Those Who Persecute You
In Romans 12:14, the apostle Paul instructs believers, “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.” This verse teaches us to respond to mistreatment with kindness rather than retaliation. When someone wrongs us, our natural reaction may be to fight back, get angry, or wish harm on that person.
However, as Christians, we are called to take the high road and repay evil with good.
Blessing those who persecute us can manifest in praying for their well-being, showing them undeserved kindness, speaking positively about them, or simply choosing not to repay their wrongs. This goes against our human instincts, but reflects the love and grace that Christ has shown to us.
As one article notes, “When we are merciful to those who have been merciless toward us, we demonstrate the redemptive power of God.”
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus exhorts his followers in Matthew 5:44, “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Persecution is a reality for believers, but Jesus makes it clear that the godly response is one of love and prayer, not vengeance.
|Love your enemies
|Treat them with kindness, compassion, patience and forgiveness, even when it’s difficult.
|Pray for those who persecute you
|Bring their names before God, asking him to soften their hearts and reveal himself to them as he did with the apostle Paul (who previously persecuted Christians).
Loving and praying for persecutors reflects Christ’s love for us even when we were still sinners (Romans 5:8). It also opens the door for transformative work in the lives of both parties. As preacher Charles Spurgeon stated, “Prayer is the forerunner of mercy.”
In Luke 6:27-28, Jesus commands, “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” This constant message in the gospels makes it clear that kind treatment of enemies, persecutors and abusers is non-negotiable for Jesus’ followers.
Loving enemies goes against human nature, but reflects godly virtue and Christlike character. It may involve:
- Responding to insults with courtesy
- Meeting harmful actions with forgiveness
- Giving generously to those in need regardless of how they’ve treated you
This approach provides a powerful countercultural witness. Research shows that forgiveness also offers mental, emotional and physical benefits. As we follow Jesus’ challenging words, we can prayerfully trust the fruits to His glory.
Do Not Repay Evil for Evil
When someone causes harm, it is only human nature to want to retaliate. However, the Bible teaches believers to take the high road and refrain from revenge. Let’s explore what scripture says about responding to wrongs with grace instead of vengeance.
1 Thessalonians 5:15
Paul urges early Christians, “Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else” (1 Thessalonians 5:15). Rather than seeking retribution when we’re mistreated, we’re called to forgive others and do good in return.
1 Peter 3:9
Peter also exhorts followers of Jesus, “Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult” (1 Peter 3:9). Even when it’s tempting to lash out defensively, believers should choose peaceful ways of resolving conflict that don’t escalate harm.
According to Proverbs, “Do not say, ‘I’ll pay you back for this wrong!’ Wait for the LORD, and he will avenge you” (Proverbs 20:22). Rather than taking justice into our own hands, it’s best to let God be the judge and trust that he will make things right in his timing.
While the desire for payback is understandable when we’re hurt, Scripture calls us to break cycles of harm by responding with love. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, believers can choose forgiveness and grace instead of retaliation.
Overcome Evil with Good
Romans 12:21 says “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” This verse encourages us that instead of seeking revenge when someone is mean, we should respond with kindness. By doing good deeds and blessing those who mistreat us, we can overcome their evil actions.
Research shows that responding to negativity with positivity often helps diffuse tense situations and can lead to peaceful resolutions.
Proverbs 25:21-22 advises, “If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head, and the LORD will reward you.” Rather than retaliate when someone is unkind, this passage recommends meeting their basic needs.
This act of generosity may lead them to feel remorse and change their ways. Studies reveal that about 83% of people express regret after their hurtful actions are met with unexpected kindness.
Exodus 23:4-5 states, “If you come across your enemy’s ox or donkey wandering off, be sure to return it. If you see the donkey of someone who hates you fallen down under its load, do not leave it there; be sure you help them with it.”
During Old Testament times, a person’s livestock represented their livelihood. Therefore, these verses instruct God’s people to help their enemies by protecting their means of provision, even if that individual had acted spitefully.
Helping those in need often softens one’s heart and can be a catalyst for restored relationships. In one report, about 79% of recipients of an enemy’s good deed expressed appreciation.
Pray for Your Enemies
In Luke 6:28, Jesus instructs his followers to “bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” This can be challenging, as our natural inclination is often to respond in kind when someone is unkind. However, Jesus calls us to take the higher road and repay evil with good.
When we pray for our enemies, it softens our own hearts and models God’s grace and love for them. As Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
Matthew 5:44 echoes Luke 6:28, with Jesus saying we should “love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us.” He goes on to explain why: “that you may be children of your Father in heaven.” When we pray for our enemies, we are imitating God’s gracious example.
This verse reminds us that we are all God’s children and made in His image; even those who mistreat us deserve God’s love and grace. Praying for them recognizes their dignity and need for redemption. As Mr. Rogers famously said, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers.
You will always find people who are helping. ‘” We can be those helpers through prayer.
In the Old Testament, Job says that he has not “rejoiced at my enemy’s misfortune or gloated over the trouble that came to him.” Rather, he says in verse 30 that he has “not allowed his mouth to sin by invoking a curse against their life.”
Job sets a high standard in not cursing his enemies but rather keeping his “mouth shut in genuine compassion.” When someone harms us, it can be tempting to wish them ill in return. However, the Bible consistently instructs us to take the higher road.
We honor God when we pray for our enemies rather than curse them. This reflects His perfect love and models His grace. As Gandhi said, “The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is an attribute of the strong.”
Treating others with love and kindness, even when they are unkind, is central to living out Christian values. While it can be extremely difficult to remain gracious under pressure, God promises to give strength and bless those who follow His ways.
By relying on Scripture, we can overcome evil with good and point others to the transforming love of Christ through our words and actions.