by Shea Oakley
In a fallen world it is impossible to avoid being hurt by other people. Also unavoidable is our own inborn tendency, consciously or otherwise, to injure those people in return. It is something we are born with and the spiritual re-birth that makes us Christians does not automatically banish the propensity to hurt back.
It often seems as if the last thing we want to do at the moment we have been offended is seek God for help in responding. The flesh immediately puts forward its own agenda and it is powerfully tempting to follow its prescription for dealing with the offender. If someone punches me in the nose my first impulse is not likely to be to pray to the Lord for wisdom in understanding why that person would do such a thing. My first impulse is to punch back. If I follow that impulse the world will likely tell me I am acting in legitimate self-defense. As my newly-bruised nose throbs, "legitimate self-defense" sounds pretty good to me!
But Jesus might well tell me to turn the other cheek in such a circumstance. My flesh, of course, wants nothing to do with the concept. The call of the Spirit speaks softly and my sense of grievance is screaming. Often I never hear God's call at all.
But part of the problem may be that I do not really want to hear it.
One aspect of attaining to spiritual maturity is deciding that no matter how urgently the flesh is speaking to me I will choose to listen for the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit before I react. This is by no means easy. Some people never learn to do this and, at best, live in spiritual defeat all their Christian lives.
It is initially far easier to heed the flesh than the Spirit. This is true with any temptation, not just the one to take revenge. Ask any addict, resisting sin is difficult. However, the long-term results of not resisting lead to death and that death is far worse than the pain involved in choosing to flee temptation. Experiencing the short-term gratification of giving into it is never worth the aftermath, never.
Beyond that, there is a better reason not to fight fire with fire. Our best motivation for seeking God's solution to injury is simply that we want to be lovingly obedient to Him. We perhaps love God best when we strive to emulate His beloved Son. This is the call of the Spirit in our lives, to truly do what Jesus would and to do it out of love for Him. This is greatly pleasing to God and, make no mistake, He will make up for whatever loss we sustain in taking the harder road of Christ-likeness. It may be in this life or it may be in the next, but our Lord will surely wipe away our tears and heal every wound we have sustained.
That assurance is a powerful weapon in the arsenal of a Christian who has just been punched in the nose.
Copyright 2006 by Shea Oakley
All rights reserved. Printed by permission.
Shea Oakley has written for a number of Christian Web magazines.
He makes his home in West Milford, New Jersey.