I once heard Bill Cosby give a comedy routine on Revenge. And he told a story of how when he was a kid, he plotted revenge against a kid that threw a slushball at him, and how his plan went humorously awry.
But how many times do people hurt us, and we plot how to hurt them back? To somehow make them pay for what they did?
Or how many times do we rejoice when they take a fall?
Solomon warns us against both kinds of attitudes.
Do not gloat when your enemy falls; when he stumbles, do not let your heart rejoice, or the LORD will see and disapprove and turn his wrath away from him. (24:17-18)
The thing we need to remember is that no matter how bad the other person may be, they were created in God’s image. It may be an image that is extremely distorted, but God still cares greatly about them. And he hates it when anyone rejoices in their suffering. Because God doesn’t. When a person goes to hell, no matter how bad they are, God doesn’t rejoice. He weeps. We are never to devalue a person made in God’s image, no matter how bad they may be. And God looks dimly on those who do.
Solomon goes on to say,
Do not say, “I’ll do to him as he has done to me; I’ll pay that man back for what he did.” (24:29)
If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head, and the LORD will reward you. (25:21-22)
In other words, we are more likely to cause a person to feel guilty for his actions by showing kindness to them then by retaliating against them. Even if they never repent, God will reward you.
On the other hand,
Like a muddied spring or a polluted well is a righteous man who gives way to the wicked. (25:26)
When we let the wicked influence our actions, it muddies and pollutes our witness. Instead of influencing the world, we become like the world.
Like a city whose walls are broken down is a man who lacks self-control. (25:28)
If we can’t control our anger and our actions when people wrong us, the walls of our very lives break down. And Satan will send all he can against us to get us to sin again and cause us to drift even further apart from God.
But if we show kindness to those who hurt us, no matter what Satan throws at us, he will not be able to break us down. And ultimately, we may start turning those very people Satan sends against us into friends, turning his own plots against himself.
Some people think that by taking revenge, it strengthens their walls. Actually it is the person who shows restraint and forgiveness that is truly strong.
How about you? How do you treat those who ill-treat you?