Justice and wanting to hurt someone are never the same

It’s so easy to hurt someone when they hurt you. Have you noticed that? If someone makes you angry, automatically you want to make them feel anger. If someone hurts your feelings, your automatic response is to hurt them in return.

That’s human nature. And what’s more that’s how the world tells us we’re supposed to live. In the words of the inimitable Captain Malcolm Reynolds from Joss Whedon’s Firefly: “If someone ever tries to kill you, you try to kill ’em right back!”

That’s how we’re wired. And, honestly, it just makes sense. You have to stand up for yourself. You can’t let people think they can push you around. Can you?

accuseToday’s verse is 1 Peter 3:9.

Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God has called you to do, and he will grant you his blessing.

When another person takes something from you or hurts you in some way, what are you supposed to do? Culturally speaking, this varies from country to country, mostly depending on what sort of laws are in place to protect private citizens. The United States is very blessed to have the law enforcement officers who genuinely want to protect others and who work every day to uphold the law. America may not be what she used to be, but we’re still the most fortunate country in the world. Our laws are still designed to protect people for the most part.

But what about in a Third World country where there is no law? What about in a country with a vicious regime dedicated to genocide or religious persecution? What about a country whose laws exist to benefit the rulers rather than the common people?

I do believe there is a line to be drawn. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with standing up for yourself or your beliefs. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with protecting what is rightfully yours. Where that line needs to be drawn is motivation.

It’s not wrong to want justice when you’re wronged. It’s not wrong to protect your family or the people you love when they are being threatened. But before you go to respond to someone who has hurt you, stop and think for a minute and take a good long look at your heart.

Do you want to hurt them back because you’re hurting? Most likely, that’s what’s motivating you. When we are hurt, we want to hurt others. That’s our nature. But if you’re a Christ-follower, you have a second nature to draw on–your redeemed nature through the power of the Holy Spirit.

It’s one thing to want justice. It’s something else to want to hurt someone just because they hurt you or someone you love. Justice is fair and even, a requirement for law and order. Wanting to hurt someone because they hurt you is more like revenge. And the two are never the same.

Besides, ultimately, justice isn’t even our responsibility. It’s God’s. God has promised justice to His children. It’s all over the Bible, but somehow we still forget.

If someone has hurt you, it’s a horrible thing. Maybe it’s physical. Maybe it’s mental or emotional. Maybe you were publicly embarrassed. Maybe you wrote a blog post that sent the internet into a vicious uproar. Maybe people said all sorts of mean, hateful things to you. What’s the best thing to do in response?

The Bible says bless them. That means to say good things about them. Maybe you can’t think of anything good to say about them, but that doesn’t mean you can’t focus on what you learned from the experience.

Yes, they were wrong. Yes, you were a victim. But God’s still in control. He still knows what He’s doing. And if you belong to Him, He won’t let any wrong go unpunished. You just need to let it go and let Him work it out.

What hurt are you holding on to today? It’s not worth your life. It’s not worth your happiness. And it’s definitely not worth distracting you from your relationship with God.

Choose to see the hurts in your life as something you can learn from. Don’t snap back. Don’t take the same low road as your accusers. That won’t accomplish anything.

Instead, choose to see cruelty and general meanness of the world as an opportunity to grow. It will make you stronger, and God has promised to bless you in return.