1 Peter 3:8-10 (New International Version)
“Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.
For,’Whoever would love life
and see good days
must keep his tongue from evil
and his lips from deceitful speech…'”
We have a saying in the Mitchell household that I borrowed (read: stole) from one of my favorite bible study leaders, whose teaching I sat under for the better part of five years. In order to avoid dishonoring God and wounding other people with our mouths, we try very hard not to say anything except that which is true, kind, and necessary. Speaking the truth keeps us from lies and gossip. Being kind makes sure that we think before we speak, considering the feelings of the hearer, not just our own. The “necessary” prevents idle words or in the case of four children ages three through eleven, snitching. At least that is how it is supposed to work.
The problem is that when you have been offended, wounded, injured, your natural reaction is to react in kind. What results are hurtful words, broken hearts, broken relationships, followed by unforgiveness and bitterness. We see examples of this in the world system all the time. We even have pithy little sayings to justify it. “Don’t get mad, get even.” “Revenge is a dish best served cold.” Or my personal favorite: “Don’t start nothin’ won’t be nothin.'” One I’ve heard when counseling married women, “Oh, he ain’t gon’ punk me.” This last statement is usually followed by the recollection of a vengeful act or by a plan of action to avenge hurt feelings. The problem is that returning evil for evil only results in evil thriving and people dying, sometimes physically, but always, always spiritually.
God is the only Being who can confront evil head on and remain unchanged. You and I are not designed that way. Think about it, when we suffer slander, abuse, injustice, or the fruits of hatred, we are changed. Something in us diminishes. While healing is possible, the fact that we must heal, indicates the effect of the offense. In fact, in our attempt to recover our dignity, if we aren’t careful about how we respond, we can become worse than those who injured us. Revenge turns people into monsters. That’s why God sent Jesus. He dealt with the enemy head on, so we don’t have to. Moreover, by his agonizing and humiliating passion and death, Jesus paid the price for every sin that ever has or ever will be committed, leaving you and me free to forgive and to love. So let’s not warp our new nature, through which we have a chance to achieve greatness and to cooperate with our Father, by contaminating it with revenge. It’s bad enough to be the recipient of evil, do we have to perpetrate it, too?
Trust me, there are situations in my life that make it difficult for me to embrace these words, and I’m writing them. But I am proof that God can use anybody to spread the gospel. Broken vessel that I am – I know truth when I hear it or read it. And I suspect you do, too. I encourage you (and myself, too) to put down your weapons. If you are called to defend, that’s different, but even that can be done in love. But if you’ve been wronged and nobody (including God) seems to be doing anything about it…don’t do the DIY revenge thing. Even if you succeed, you fail. I encourage you (and me) today, let God handle “it,” whatever “it” is. Don’t repay evil for evil, or insult for insult…pay in blessings. Then you will inherit them as well. You might be thinking, “But, Sheeri, you don’t know what I’m dealing with.” And you’d be absolutely right. I have no idea. But God does. And if he didn’t orchestrate it, he allowed it to happen. He never permits anything without an express purpose. It is his word written above, not mine. Maybe your situation is an opportunity for you to enter into a relationship with him. If you are willing, talk to him about your stuff. Shout at him about it. Cry out your frustration, if that’s all you’ve got. He can handle it. He wants you to come to him. Even if you have to start the dialogue by saying, “God, I don’t really believe in you. But IF you exist…” Trust me, he will bend down close to listen to that kind of prayer. In fact, he loves that kind of prayer. I beg you, whatever your plans to get back at someone – even if it’s an insult via email – don’t go through with them. Let God be God in your life today.
Be blessed Family!