School is in session 24-7. Life is a test, an opportunity to choose God’s way rather than the way of bitterness, unforgiveness, or revenge. Everything is useful for us, especially the difficult things, because they bring tension, which can produce growth. We don’t have the right to be wounded when we are afflicted—we have the right to be healed. If you are stabbed and don’t feel it—congratulations; you are dead. We want Christ-likeness in our lives, but we, like Peter, sometimes prefer the short cut, the pain-free options. There aren’t any. No skipping classes, no mail-order degrees.
We are not responsible for what people do to us, but we are responsible for our responses. And according to author Charles Swindoll, life is 10% what happens to us and 90% how we respond to it. You’ve heard it before–God is more concerned about what happens in us than what happens to us. He is teaching us how to respond to Him rather than react to others. He is after character, Christ-likeness. That is what will cause the world to pay attention. The world is looking on and says, “See how they hit one another.” We’re not that impressive–yet.
What kind of person can return good for evil? One who is…
- secure in the love of God.
- filled with the Spirit of grace. Under the law people were permitted to get even up to a tooth for a tooth. Grace calls us to get good rather than get even.
- quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger (James 1:19).
- caring enough to know the effect of the cause, so doesn’t react to their reaction, knowing the need behind the deed and is therefore merciful.
What kind of person cannot respond in a godly manner to wrong? Perhaps one who is…
- too insecure to overlook an offense (Colossians 3:13).
- wounded and not healed and therefore defensive rather than responsive.
- full of jealousy or personal ambition (James 3:14,16).
What happens if we react to people rather than responding to God?
We stir up more anger. “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1). Reacting to evil intensifies evil. Brace yourself!
We are defiled. Jesus made clear that we are not defiled by what goes in but by what comes out (Mark 7:17-23). Unkindness defiles us, regardless of what has been done to us. It is not illegal to suffer wrong, but it is illegal to respond wrongly.
We frustrate the grace of God. He wants to pour out grace upon us, but if we react in our carnal nature, we shut off heaven’s supply, which is given to the lowly.
We play God. “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). We try to pay people back because we want to make sure they get what is coming to them. And justice wins over mercy. God is more just than we are, and He will see that justice is carried out. He doesn’t like it when we assume the prerogatives of deity. He says, “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink… Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:20,21).
What happens if we respond in a Christ-like fashion? (Find out in Part 3).