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Text Box: Getting “Even” is not Holy


Text Box:  
(Matthew 5:38-40 NIV)  You have heard that it was said, 'Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.'  But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.  And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.
(1 Peter 2:21-23 NIV)  To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.  "He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth."  When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.
(Leviticus 19:18 NIV)  Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.
(Romans 12:19-21 NIV)  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.  On the contrary: "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head."  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Text Box: Only a Kingdom Citizen, trained in righteousness and mercy, can look beyond the offense of the ignorant and love unconditionally—even when physically threatened.  
(Proverbs 19:11 NIV)  A man's wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense.
(Proverbs 12:16 NIV)  A fool shows his annoyance at once, but a prudent man overlooks an insult.
Jesus’ mission was not to seek revenge, but to reconcile us to Himself (John 12:47, 48; 1 Thessalonians 5:9).  There will be a day, though, when the Lord Himself will see to it that all evil is repaid.
(Revelation 6:10-11 NIV)  They called out in a loud voice, "How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?"  Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and brothers who were to be killed as they had been was completed.
(2 Peter 3:10-12 NIV)  But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare.  Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat.
Since God is the judge of the living and the dead, He alone is justified in avenging evil.  Our job is not to do that, but to be reconcilers in His name.  Vengeance destroys relationships—reconciliation restores them.  If we are to walk in Jesus’ footsteps we are to walk in harmony with his purpose—to restore the lost.  When He comes back, He will then separate the chaff from the wheat:
(Matthew 13:40-43 NIV)  As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age.  The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil.  They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.
Hatred, attitudes, lust, divorce, deceit, vengeance… Can you see how these are relationship breakers?  Anyone who practices these things does not have a righteousness that surpasses that of the Pharisees.  A person that allows to be controlled by these passions does not love the recipient of these emotions. Remember to be holy, as our Lord is holy!

In His Footsteps © 1998                                                    



Text Box: Getting “Even” is not Holy




By nature we often are resistant to offer kindness in exchange for hatred.  When I am challenged, my first inward reaction is to challenge back.  When I am wronged, my first impulse is to want to wrong back.  Why such an impulse?  Isn’t “getting even” just and right?  Let’s look at these passages in the Old Testament.  Read Exodus 21:23ff; Leviticus 24:17-22; Deuteronomy 19:15-21.  Keeping in mind that these laws are holy and good (1 Timothy 1:8-11; Romans 7:12, 14), discuss how they were beneficial in establishing public justice and preventing private retaliation and vengeance. Were any of these harsh laws established for those who seek righteousness (1 Timothy 1:9,10)?  Who are they for?  Read Romans 7:7-25. Can these laws save us?  What are they for? How do these laws help us realize our sin?  Can these laws change us from within, or do they just condemn outward action?  Can we know what holiness is from these laws?  You see, the Pharisees in Jesus’ day were twisting these and other laws to benefit themselves (Mathew 23).  Rather than upholding the law and seeing to justice and mercy, they rampantly let each man avenge himself.  This is most evident by the way they sought to take revenge upon Jesus and His disciples.



How are we to deal with our vindictive nature?  Read James 1:19, 20.  What must we do and in what order?  Is any of your anger justified before God?  Have you ever felt justified in seeking retaliation?  Did you retaliate?  If you have ever retaliated, did it solve the problem or aggravate it?  Are you convinced that your anger does not bring about righteousness?  Read Matthew 26:46-56.  Would you have done the same thing Peter did (John 18:10)?  What could Jesus have done about this arrest if He wanted to?  Would He have been justified in avenging His arrest?  Do you think He even needed all those angels to help Him?  What do you think was His point in mentioning these alternate venues He had at His disposal?  Peter himself, later on, encourages all of us to follow in Jesus’ footsteps in 1 Peter 2:21-23.



Resistance to evil is second nature. Our sinful nature is resistant to the Spirit’s prompting of humility and submission when it comes to self-serving and self-preservation.  We need to make our first nature that of seeking reconciliation as payback for evil.  Fighting fire with fire is the way of the world.  Can you really put out fire with more fire?  Read Romans 12:19-21.  Whose wrath we need to let act?  Whose place is it to avenge?  What is our place?  Our role is not to resist but insist.  Insist on peace, love and reconciliation.  What happens to the recipient of our love when we shower him/her with kindness as opposed to evil?  Can they accuse you of any wrongdoing justly?  How can you overcome evil?  Read 2 Corinthians 10:3-5.  What weapons do you think Paul is talking about here?  Can love demolish evil?  Can kindness demolish hatred?  How do you think you can take captive every thought to Christ—yours and others’? Read James 3:13-18.  How can you tell when you are acting in wisdom from above as opposed to selfish ambition and bitterness?  What kind of fruit does Heavenly wisdom bear?  What kind of fruit does worldly wisdom bear?



Not returning evil for evil is not necessarily the central teaching of Matthew 5:38-40.  Returning an act of kindness for an act of evil without sincerely taking offense at the individual’s actions is the principle in context.  As we will read in Matthew 6:1ff, our deeds are not to be performed just to be seen by men.  Turning the other cheek and giving away your cloak is to be done out of sincerity and genuine concern for the other person’s welfare, whether spiritual or physical or both.  This is the kind of perfect (Matthew 5:48) love Jesus showed us on the cross.  Matthew 23:25-30 presents this case against those who may have done what was right, but their hearts were filled with hypocrisy and evil.  What does God look at in a man (1 Samuel 16:7)?  Jesus quoted the Pharisees as saying they would have never killed the prophets their forefathers killed.  Yet, what did they do to Jesus and His disciples?  They may have appeared righteous to men, but Jesus could see right through them.  The Holy Spirit never produces vengeful fruit, remember that (James 3:13-18)!



Although there are righteous and holy ways to deal with retaliation in our social structure, our role as individuals is not to seek these out of personal gain or any sense of justice we may think is due to us (See 1 Corinthians 6:1-8).  Our role as Kingdom Citizens is to be ministers of reconciliation at the center of our hearts.  “To insist on every personal right, to right every personal affront, to retaliate at every real or supposed injury or insult is to continually war, quarrel, and wrangle with every man.” –Max Miller, The Sermon on the Mount  Read Romans 13:1-8; Titus 3:1,2; 1 Peter 2:13-17.  Who has established the authorities that exist in our country?  If you rebel against the governing authorities that exist, who do you rebel against?  Why has God established these authorities?  Does God use these agents to deliver His justice?  So if you hold bitterness against the system in place, who do you hold bitterness against?  If you think the authorities have wronged you, is it your place to hold bitterness and seek vengeance against them?  Is it right to retaliate by withholding taxes due to the governing authorities?  Is it right to “take the law into your own hands”?


When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. 1 Peter 2:23


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