If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 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.” ( Romans 12:18-20 )
I have had many experiences in life where people mistreated me. I did not handle it well, even after becoming a Christian. Honestly, when people are mean, I want to be mean right back. Does it make the situation better? An emphatic No! Returning evil for evil usually made the situation worse.
There is another verse that says, “A kind answer turns away wrath”, and still another to more fully convict me, ” Anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.” I can think of many more, like Jesus telling us to turn the other cheek, if someone strikes us, or his statement about being good to those who persecute us. Otherwise, how are we any different from the world?
Now this verse, in Romans, is saying, that if it is possible, as far as it concerns us, to try and live at peace with everyone. Maybe that would be easier to do, if we could remember that God will avenge. He will repay. That we should leave room for His wrath. There was a pretty good discussion with my family about our devotions today. What about someone who murders a family member, or hurts a little child. What about the “Machine Gun Preacher”? I can’t answer for others, but I have to answer for myself.
I saw a movie, and I think it was called, “The Butter Cream Gang”. It was a sequel to the first movie. A boy moves back to this small town with all his big city, gangster-style ways. Some Christian boys want to be kind to him after they find out that being angry doesn’t help. They allow him to pick on them, one gives up his bike, the store owner allows the mean kid to take things from his store, and tells him if he gives things to him, it isn’t stealing.
The father of one of the Christian boys tells his son a story of when he was in Vietnam during the war. There was a soldier who was so nice, and when everyone picked on him, he just shrugged it off. One day, when he was asked about his behavior, he replied, “You have to give an account to God for your behavior, and I’ll have to give an account for mine.” That soldier died before the war was over.
I recently have read some horrifying stories in the news. One was about a toddler who was kicked so hard, that her liver split in two. The boyfriend of the mother confessed to killing the girl, because she had a dirty diaper. I read about ISIS, and how they slaughtered over fifteen hundred people, by shooting them in the head, and casting their bodies into a river. I have read many articles about World War 2, and the horrific things done. The CIA in our own country, has been accused recently of torturing prisoners in a Polish prison. You have to wonder how people can do the things they do to other fellow human beings? Where is their conscience, their respect for the sanctity of life?
I am confused about these things, and how to react. If we look at the whole Bible, the book of Ecclesiastes also reminds us that there is a time for peace and a time for war. It is true that Jesus went to his death like a lamb to the slaughter, and didn’t retaliate, and Stephen, as he was being stoned, looked up to heaven, and seeing Jesus at the right hand of God, prayed for the Father to forgive them, because they didn’t know what they were doing. But what about other stories in the Bible? Is it okay to retaliate? Jesus tipped over the money-changers tables at the temple. David fought Goliath. How about when the Israelites asked God if they should go to war against the tribe of Benjamin, in the book of Judges? They almost wiped out the whole tribe, because of the woman who was murdered by the gay men and young boys of that city.
Do a search for the Machine Gun Preacher. He felt that the safety of the children in Africa, was a part of evangelizing them. He carries a machine gun so that he can safely witness and help the orphans in the care of his organization. In the country where he is at, children are mutilated, they are abducted, their families are murdered. Can one turn the other cheek then? Is it possible?
I also think that when good men do nothing, evil increases. In my own life though, I can do a lot better at trying to be kind, and to return soft answers that would take away wrath. I will try to repay evil with good, and pray for my enemies.
Does anyone else have a hard time with this?