It’s in our human nature to want to hit back. When we are wrongly attacked, when people accuse us of things we haven’t done, when others judge our actions without even bothering to understand our motives . . . it’s our gut instinct to put on the gloves and get ready to go a few rounds! And then there is the whole issue of mothers and their children!
As wonderful as vengeance might feel, it’s not what the Jesus-follower is called to do. I know, I know. It would feel so good to lash out at that person who is causing so much frustration. But the scripture is pretty clear –
Romans 12:18 (NIV)
If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
Or maybe this will register with you better:
Romans 12:18 (MSG)
Don’t hit back; discover beauty in everyone. If you’ve got it in you, get along with everybody.
Hoo boy. Nothing unclear in those statements! I am the only person whose behavior and attitude I can control so I need to focus on living peaceably. Does that mean I deny that the actions of others have hurt/caused frustration/made life difficult?! Nope. It just means that you acknowledge all of that stuff is true and choose to live peaceably anyway. An older generation would have put it this way – “Kill ’em with kindness.”
I’m not called to set myself up to be misused by others. I’m simply called to control my actions to the point that all I can be “accused” of is trying to maintain peace. It isn’t easy. Without divulging details best kept private, I’m walking through a situation like this right now. I have in my possession some emails that would change the information and impression that others have been given. But it would also mean exposing someone else as a liar and a manipulator. Since I was the direct recipient of the lies and manipulation, I’m not yet fully convinced that I need to share the information I have. Don’t get me wrong – I have rearranged some things in my life so that I am no longer “in the line of fire.” And I will continue to do what I can to repair and rebuild the relationships that this other person damaged with their words. But I will not retaliate. It’s hard at times. Especially when the hurt wells up again and I just want to get a tiny bit of revenge.
There is no out clause in that verse. There is no “live at peace with everyone unless they (fill in the blank).” No escape clause or loophole – “live at peace with EVERYONE.” It’s not easy. But whatever needs to be revealed will be in good time. Romans 12:19-20 goes on to say –
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. On the contrary:
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”
God may decide that “payback” is necessary. But that’s his decision to make and carry out. Our job is to be peaceable with everyone. Never easy, but always the right thing to do!