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Resist the Temptation to Retaliate

Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else.

1 Thessalonians 5:15

I’ve Got You Under My Skin. A catchy love song by numerous performers. The Four Seasons, Frank Sinatra, and Michael Buble come to mind.

When we say someone has gotten under our skin we mean they have gotten into our mind. When it’s love as in the aforementioned song, that’s usually a good thing. But when it is in response to someone who has wronged us, then we’re faced with agitation, anger, hurt, frustration, and sometimes, rage.

If you were looking for a quick way to learn where you are spiritually, those provocative jabs and punches from others can quickly give you an assessment. When you’re shaken, you will find out what you truly believe.

Paul reminds the members of the church at Thessalonica, “Don’t pay back wrong for wrong.” What? No payback or getting even? No retaliation? But it feels so good. Whatever happened to “an eye for an eye?”

Exodus 21:24-25 says “eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise.” That was the law of the land, just as we have statutes that require fines for speeding, jay-walking, etc. But in our daily relationships, God wants us to be peacemakers.

We live in an egregious society. Lots of bad dudes around to agitate us.

In my neighborhood we have a Facebook style community page on the internet. Sometimes the postings are complaints about public services, like utilities, potholes, and suspicious looking characters in the neighborhood. But most often, griping is directed at neighbors who drive too fast, allow their dogs to deposit on their grass, fail to maintain their lawns, or make excessive noise at night. Most of the complaints are valid but they always lead to a flurry of negative commentary. For an outsider looking in, you would think Timberline in Calera, Alabama is a terrible place to live, which is definitely not the case. All that online bickering gives a negative impression of reality.

That’s what happens when Christians act, well, non-Christian. Retaliation escalates a disagreement and causes enmity between the parties involved, which results in a bad witness for Christ’s ambassadors on this earth. Who wants what we’ve got if we can’t get along?

Instead of returning wrong for wrong, Paul advises us to “always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else.” That means — drop the issue, forgive the offender, and move on. However, it doesn’t mean you should never address the concern. But, can you do it in kindness?

Recently, my wife and I made a purchase at Walmart. The gal who checked us out was aloof and unfriendly. So, I asked, “How are you today?”

No response.

Then my wife inquired, “Are you having a bad day?”

“My father is in the hospital and refuses to take his medicine,” she said.

When we left she was smiling, even wished us a good day.

Our Lord’s way is grace. That means NOT giving people what they deserve. Give favor rather than wrath.

But what about those times when we are severely wronged? Romans 12:19 has the answer.

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.

In other words, let God handle it.  Occasionally, I have prayed that God would adjudicate a matter and uphold my cause. He has never failed and has even removed those who have wronged me.

There are times when we MUST fight. But that should only come after seeking God’s direction. Why go into any battle without the help of the Lord? Consider the greater good, strive for peace, and avoid petty disagreements.

For more on this topic, check out this article: Beware of Argumentative Christians

Reprinted from The Forever Notebook, Book 2 (April – June) Get your copy here: Paperback and eBook/Kindle formats.

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