Suffering for Doing Good

by Martin Luther

Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened.” ( 1 Peter 3:13-14)

Peter doesn’t want you to say that the person who harmed you was doing right. For there is a much different judgment between me and God and between me and you. For example, I can have anger, hatred, and evil desire in my heart and not hurt you. You remain unharmed and have nothing against me. But before God, I am guilty. If he punishes me, he does what is right, for I have certainly earned it. If he doesn’t punish me, then he shows mercy to me. He is right either way. But it doesn’t follow from this that the person persecuting me is also doing right. For I have not wronged that person in the same way that I have wronged God.

In Ezekiel 29:19-20, God speaks about King Nebuchadnezzar. It’s as if God were saying, “Don’t you know that he has been my servant and has served me? Now I must give him a reward. I have not yet paid him. I will give him the land of Egypt as his reward.” Nebuchadnezzar had no right to the land, but God had the right to punish others through him. In order that these evil scoundrels won’t eat their bread free of charge, God has them serve him by persecuting his people. Human reason, then, steps in and thinks that people like this must be doing well. But God is only paying them in return for their work of punishing and persecuting devout Christians. But if you endure the punishment and bless God by saying, “You are right, Lord!” you will do well. Then God will cast those people into hell and punish them for doing wrong. But he will mercifully receive you and give you eternal salvation. So let God do what he will. He will certainly repay in the end.

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