In our families, in our marriages, in our careers and in the work place, it has happened to us. We have all been mistreated and felt the emotions that come with the feelings of being mistreated. How do we rid ourselves of these emotions? Some of us hang out with friends to get it all out. In our modern society, some explode their emotions all over Facebook. Some hold it in. We hold the emotional strain due to mistreatments and abuse we have endured for days, weeks, and sometimes decades.
Even in our redeemed state, our flesh desires revenge. We want payback. We have an “eye for an eye” mentality towards the one who has hurt us. But the more we fellowship with Christ and get His Word into us, the more contrary it commands us to be toward what our flesh desires. Could you imagine that God may want to move our flesh from revenge and move us to a place of blessing – blessing our enemy?
I remembered when someone had done me wrong when I was in high school. I would lie in bed thinking of ways to hurt them: how in the middle of the night I could damage their property in return for the hurt they had caused me. Many think of various ways to pay people back for their mistreatment – defiling projects, destroying reputations, and derailing dreams. But God does not ask us to refrain from returning evil for evil when mistreated without offering us a significant blessing in return. Our Father is a huge Giver, and He wants to bless us for bearing mistreatment and suffering on His behalf.
For thousands of years, man was able to return whatever necessary evil back to the person who had caused pain. That was until Jesus stood up and said the following:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ 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. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. Matthew 5:38-48 New International Version
This went against man’s ways. This went against cultural, oral traditions, and current day scriptural norms of the day. Most importantly, it went against the path that our flesh takes when someone hurts us. It may go against what our parents have taught us in regards to the playgrounds of life: if someone hits you, hit them back. God was instituting His economy and His order for man.
In this day and time, Roman soldiers and Roman countrymen could come to a Jew and demand whatever they wished. Jews despised the Romans for their abuse and unfair treatment. If a soldier wanted you to assist him by helping him carry a load, you carried it. Jesus said (paraphrasing), “Watch your attitude. If one of those guys asks you go to a mile. Go the extra mile and go two.”
Even today, this applies to us. Jesus says to not resist – withstand, to strive against, or oppose – the evil person. In fact, Jesus seems to be saying here to lean into the evil person. Are we to lean into the opposition as people lean into the wind of a hurricane or storm?
When I was in second grade, there was a girl, named Natosha, who was the classroom bully. She was loud and obnoxious. She was also the teacher’s pet. When the teacher had to leave the room, Natosha was the one who was asked to take names and when the opportunity came her claws would come out. Of course, I was the talker and I was always on Natosha’s list of names to turn into the teacher. She and I did not get along at all. The day for my opportunity to get her back was coming.
It was time for recess. Recess ‘old school’ was when you were allowed to play in the open areas and fields of the school’s property with no direction of what you could or couldn’t do. There were no organized instructions or requirements. (I write this for those young ones reading this but I digress.) I saw Natosha across the yard and there was this rock that was speaking to me to pick it up and throw it at her. And, I did! Smack in the eye!
I would like to say that the kids on the playground rallied around me and picked me up on their shoulders and cheered. That was not the result. The result was a grilling by my teacher, a paddling by the assistant principle, and another ‘whipping’ when I got home that afternoon. I had opened the floodgates of discipline upon my life and Natosha was at home with a sweet little patch over her cute little eye being nursed so lovingly by her mother.
Unfortunately, that is the fate of many who take revenge upon themselves. Revenge can back fire and it leaves the guilty free. How many times have you ended up in jail because of a bar fight? How many times have you ended up paying fines for destroying property? How many nights have you been up at night and couldn’t sleep because of guilt? That is why God says that we shouldn’t carry out the revenge. He will carry it out for us.