How do you respond when you are wronged? When someone in your life does something they truly shouldn’t have–something for which some may encourage you to withhold forgiveness, or even pay them back?
“And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” (Matthew 6:12)
Because we are all born sinful, everyone does wrong. Sure, we don’t all do the same bad things, but if we’re honest, each and every one of us falls short of the perfection of God’s holy standard mankind was originally created with. Because of this, not only will we ourselves occasionally fail others, but others will also fail us. It may be planned in advance, or a spur of the moment kind of thing. There may be a genuine intent to harm us, or it may simply be selfish human nature. But when it happens, it hurts, and we know that we didn’t deserve to be treated like that.
That’s one of the reasons there are wars, murders, divorces, and various other sins: the wronged party takes it upon themselves to either “right” the wrong–which they interpret as either a “what’s good for the goose is good for the gander” or a “tit for tat” reciprocation of offenses which run the risk of becoming an ongoing Hatfield and McCoy one-upmanship of getting back at the offending party–or to simply hold a grudge that never is released to God’s healing hand. Yet, those who follow Christ are held to a higher standard. Jesus teaches us:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:43-48 NIV)
We are expected to show ourselves children of our Heavenly Father who causes the sun to rise on the good and the bad, and respond as He would have us respond.
When someone sins against us, a whole series of potential wrongs is set into motion–if we but fall into the trap, which many do. They rationalize that they do not deserve to be treated that way, and set about trying to humanly balance the scales of their sense of justice. What they do not realize, however, is that while it is the job of government to adjudicate in cases of criminal activity, personal attempts at vengeance will only go wrong:
“Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear 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.” (Romans 12:17-21 NIV)
So, how should you respond when you’ve been wronged?
The first step is to clarify in your own mind what your goal, as a follower of Jesus, is. Is it to please yourself, or to allow Him to accomplish His purposes of mirroring His character to those who do not yet know or obey Him through you? If it is to simply indulge your selfishly motivated desire to see through what you feel to be justice, you need to reevaluate whether you are genuinely following Christ. Yes, as His people, we will feel the sting of offense against us; our human souls will want the offender to step up to the plate and acknowledge how deeply they have sinned against us and how wrong they were to do it. Yet, as those who “walk by faith and not by sight” we have given our destiny over to God, and must not only trust Him to make all things right, we must take it one more step further–we must pray for and even do good to that person.
It may seem unimaginable that someone would not only wish no harm on the one who wronged him, not only refrain from taking it upon themselves to humanly attempt to balance the unevenly weighted scales, but also that they should wish and actually do that person well. Yet that is what Jesus asks of us.
The rationale for this is simple. When we pray for God to truly bless someone, what is the biggest blessing He can bestow on them? Is it not that they would truly know and follow Christ, as much as they are humanly capable of in this life? Think about it. If the person who wronged you knew Christ, or knew Him better and clung to Him more closely, they would not have been deceived by sin and would not have wronged you. By praying God’s blessing on them, you are asking Him to deal with the very qualities in that person that caused you pain, and by doing good as the opportunity presents itself, you are modeling Christ to them, thereby (hopefully) hastening that moment!
Be my Lord–my true Master–not only when it is easy, but also when it difficult. Help me give my offense and the one who committed it over to You, because You are the only One who can ever truly make it right. Help me reflect You to them as I am able, and bring them to genuine repentence and a stronger relationship with You.In Jesus’ name, amen.