One of the most difficult things to do as humans is to ‘turn the other cheek’. In today’s society, people who turn the other cheek are called doormats and walkovers. Certainly, in the Caribbean, a major part of our upbringing is arming our children with snide retorts in response to childhood bullying. Throughout my lifetime I can’t say that I’ve heard as many admonitions to ‘turn the other cheek’ as much as I’ve heard encouragement for reprisal.
Trinidad and Tobago’s social decline into crime and violence have left many victims reeling with pain and anger. How can one suppress that volcanic bubbling to avenge a wrong, to wish equal hurt on someone, and in some instances, to take matters into his/her own hands? That inclination to fight back is as natural as the heaving of our chests when we inhale and exhale. Yet, there is a more excellent way. A way that is just and always right.
Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, “I will take revenge; I will pay them back,” says the LORD. (Romans 12:19 NLT)
Belief in Jesus means trading our broken sinful soul, and instead of conforming to what is normal in the world when wronged, each day we are being transformed into the perfect character of Jesus. There was a time in my life when I was never without an answer for anything someone postured that I did not like, but thanks to Almighty God for transformation in Jesus. I have come a very long way from that instinct to retaliate, as I’m sure is the case for many of you.
Sometimes when people are hurt, they say and do whatever they feel would bring comfort, regardless of the wisdom of their actions. Wisdom is not the principal thing in those times, self-gratification is and so they feel justified to say and act as they please.
It takes maturity to turn the other cheek
At some point, I am sure that I would have naturally matured out of that feisty stage, but that would have only made a slight difference in my character. We need more than mere biological or experiential growth to understand that God is best placed to defend and avenge us. It takes the Holy Spirit to humble us enough to see the error of our ways, to divert our attention from the other person, and to take the opportunity to look in the mirror of self-evaluation.
The Lord is not concerned with vindication, He is concerned with self-transformation so that He can loose us to transform the world. The apostle Paul experienced his transformation on the road to Damascus (Acts 9) and then with passion and purpose, he was loosed to transform the lives of Gentiles with the Good News for many centuries.
Vengeance must belong to the Lord, as He alone sees perfectly into the thoughts and intentions of our hearts (Hebrews 4:12). He alone knows who was wrong and who was right and what each of us truly deserves. It is never for us to take matters into our own hands; not just because of our imperfect perspective, but because the range of vindication at His disposal is far greater than anything we can do.
We should never wish ill on those who have wronged us and we ought to be careful with our words against them because we continue to be accountable to God. God’s promise to avenge must not be a sword against others but was meant to be a shield for us.
God vigorously defends his own
I’ve been in the book of Jeremiah recently and it continues to amaze me that although God’s just discipline was poured out on the Israelites when He exiled them to Babylon, the same God then severely punished the Babylonians for the oppression of His people. He promised to bring the Israelites back to their homeland, yet He completely annihilated the Babylonian name and empire.
I have seen the power of God do so much more in my humility to His Word than in the temporary satisfaction of revenge or self-justification. When we live with the knowledge that God’s promised vengeance is our shield and that his resources to protect our bodies and reputation are limitless, we live in His promised peace. A peaceful heart leads to a healthy body. (Proverbs14:30a NLT)
Prefer peace to retribution. Prefer peace to justification. Prefer peace over chaos and war. God is never off duty and His eyes and ears are never closed.
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