Recently I watched a fight unfold on Facebook. Perhaps you can relate: watching people you care about sling arrows at one another, each asserting they are in the right.
Although I was disappointed by their actions, I wasn’t surprised. These are good people, but they’re human, and we humans tend to respond more in flesh than in faith when we are angry.
The world’s voice convinces us that when we are wronged, we have every right to assert ourselves. It tells us we are justified in “throwing shade” at the other person. The world even CHEERS US ON when we do. That makes us feel even more justified, and perhaps vindicated.
I am definitely among the crowd.
I have said things in anger, reacted from hurt pride and screamed at perceived affronts to “my rights.” When it comes to spotting the symptoms of sin nature, I’ve become a studied expert, thoroughly trained by my own brokenness.
Tit-for-tat is ungodly
The squabble I witnessed on Facebook was sin nature perfectly exemplified.
One person said something that offended the other party on a very personal level. That person reacted, throwing heaps of sarcastic insults toward the first person. Predictably, that did not sit well with the first person, who then retaliated with their own stream of visceral. Their friends and family quickly became hooked in and several publicly took sides. Then the “unfriending” began.
All I could do was shake my head.
Yes, from disappointment, but also from seeing my own sin reflected back to me.
In their actions, I saw what God tries to get through my thick skull about living at peace with my brothers and sisters, and displaying Christian love. As I observed the fight, I felt the weight of my own depravity.
Hurt people hurt people
Pain fuels sin in the way uranium fuels nuclear warheads.
I’ve reacted to wrongs done to me by responding from a place of pain. Often I’ve unfairly lumped in other hurts that have little or nothing to do with the situation at hand. Pent up pain slams into fresh pain, and the fission created is too great to contain.
I end up being an absolute jerk to someone who was an absolute jerk to me (likely from their own place of pain).
Precisely nothing is resolved. In fact, things were made worse.
It is NOT ours to avenge
Many times I have attempted to referee squabbles between my daughters. Usually I tell the first one to stay quiet while I deal with the second. What does the first child do? CONTINUE TO TALK, all in an effort to “defend” herself or point out the other daughter’s wrongdoing.
Not only is she not helping the situation, but she is blatantly disobeying my instruction.
In his Word, God tells us repeatedly to zip it (i.e., “be still”) while He deals with the other person.
Those of us who are under His wing of protection do not need to spend our energy fighting battles meant for Him.
In his letter to the Romans, the Apostle Paul writes:
“Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘IT IS MINE to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord” (Romans 12:19, emphasis added).
Paul is drawing from Deuteronomy 32:35:
“It is mine to avenge; I will repay. In due time their foot will slip; their day of disaster is near and their doom rushes upon them.”
In other words, chill.
These Scripture verses are not suggestions for God’s people. They are commands.
The Lord Almighty is far more powerful than anything I could possibly thrust upon someone else, even if I think, in my minuscule wisdom, that doing so will make me look good, sound smart, find vindication or win people to my side.
On the day I see the Lord face-to-face, I’d rather be counted obedient than self-vindicated.
Love never fails
The greatest commandment God gives us is to love (Matthew 22:36-40).
The true test of one’s Christian character is not how well they defend themselves, but how well they love regardless of how they are treated.
It doesn’t matter what the other person did. Love.
It doesn’t matter what the other person said. Love.
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no records of wrongs.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-7
If I do not love like that, then I do not love.
Love is the hardest thing in the human experience to do. Hate is the easiest.
Be the encourager
The world is high on hate and low on love. I don’t want to be another jerk. I want to be an encourager. Like Christ was.
The only way to achieve that is to love regardless of whether I’m loved in return by other broken people. I want to love like Christ did.
I’m not Christ and never will be, so I will fail frequently. Still I choose to strive toward love. I choose it for the sake of my own worship and obedience to the Lord and for the benefit of my fellow human.
Equally as important, I chose love to set an example for those who come after me in faith. Namely my children.
I want to be able to say to them in full confidence, “follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” – 1 Corinthians 11:1
I can think of no earthly reward that compares.
And I’m told the Heavenly reward will be quite delightful as well.
Be the encourager,