God forbids us to retaliate against evil men and demands that we do good to them.
The human desire for revenge seems so natural that I'm pretty well convinced that scientists will discover a retaliation gene coded into our DNA.
What a challenge, then, to run up against God's ban on personal vengeance: "Repay no one evil for evil" (Rom. 12:17) "Beloved, do not avenge yourselves" (vs. 19); "But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also" (Matt. 5:39). That's about as hard as it gets, right?
Not quite! Remember Matt. 5:44, "But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you" (Matt. 5:44)? Or, "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink" (Rom. 12:20 quoting Prov. 25:21). This is the practical way to "overcome evil with good" (Rom.12:21). So, God not only forbids us to retaliate against those who hurt us, He demands that we do positive good to them. Hard? Yes indeed. Impossible? No!
It's Been Done: -- God's word contains notable examples of those who not only refused to retaliate, but who found the grace to do good to their enemies. Of course, Jesus Christ leaps to mind first. How much evil He suffered at the hands of His enemies; lifelong rejection, betrayal, false accustions, mockery, vicious beatings, and ultimately, death. Yet, in His final moments, He prayed, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do" (Lk. 23:34). But aside from the preeminent example of Jesus Christ there are others.
Joseph: -- The eleventh son of Jacob had visions of grandeur, for which his
brothers hated him and resolved to kill him. Dissuaded from this course of action
by Reuben -- and in his absence -- the others sold this uppity teenager to a
band of Ishmaelites, who traded him into slavery in Egypt. Years later, those
same brothers were fearful when they came under the power of Joseph, who had,
by God's healp, risen to a position of prominence in the Land of the Nile. They
said, "Perhaps Joseph will hate us, and may actually repay us for all the
evil which we did to him"(Gen. 50:15). But Joseph replied to
them, "Now therefore, do not be afraid; I will provide for you and your little ones. And he comforted them and spoke kindly to them" (Gen. 50:21). Power had not corrupted this man of integrity.
An Unnamed Hebrew Maiden: -- In 2 Kings 5, we read the story of the Syrian commander, Naaman, and how he was healed of leprosy by Elisha. It began in this fashion: "And the Syrians had gone out on raids, and had brought back captive a young girl form the land of Israel. She waited on Naaman's wife. Then she said to her mistress, 'If only my master were with the prophet who is in Samaria! For he would heal him of his leprosy'" (vss. 2,3). What a marvelous young lady! Torn from her homeland, and perhaps her family, she sought to save the life of her captor.
David: -- The young shepherd boy, with his deep faith in God, became the toast
of Israel. And King Saul couldn't stand it! His heart was so filled with jealousy
that several times he tried to kill David. "So Saul became David's enemy
continually" (1 Sam. 18:29). In fact, the king hounded his loyal servant
into the Wilderness of En Gedi. On several occasions, David had opportunity
to kill Saul, but instead spared his life. In fact, he was deeply remorseful
that he even humiliated
God's anointed by cutting off a corner of his robe. When the mercurial Saul became aware of David's sorrow, he "lifted up his voice and wept. Then he said to David: 'You are more righteous than I; for you have rewarded me with good, whereas I have rewarded you with evil'" (1 Sam. 24:17). Another brick in the character of the man after God's heart.
Stephen: -- This disciple of Christ was a mighty debater. When his opponents could not "resist the wisdom and the Spirit by which he spoke," they "stirred up the people, the elders, and the scribes." This brought about his arrest and trial before the Jewish Sanhedrin, where "false witnesses" testified against him. His defense so infuriated the crowd that "they cried out with loud voice, stopped their ears, and ran at him with one accord; and they cast him out of the city and stoned him." But Stephen "knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, 'Lord, do not charge them with this sin.' And when he had said this, he fell asleep" (Acts 7:57-60). In this echo of Jesus from the cross, the disciple bore the gracious spirit of the Teacher.
These examples stand for all time to remind us that loving our enemies is not beyond the capability of hearts transformed by the grace of God.
If we find ourselves filled with hatred for people who hurt us, and if we are unable to "overcome evil with good," we need to return to square one and reexamine our "conversion." Either it wasn't genuine, or we've had a relapse.
By Jim Ward in Biblical Insights, Vol. 5, No. 11, Nov. 2005.
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