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.

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The moon in the evergreens at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Living in peace when you’re hurting

Has somebody hurt you? Most likely, the answer is yes. Whether intentionally or unintentionally, people hurt people all the time. It’s an unfortunate fact of living in this broken world.

Maybe it’s because I grew up in the church, but the majority of people who have hurt me are Bible-believing Christians. That shouldn’t hurt worse than if a nonbeliever hurt me, but it does. Because you expect more from a Christ-follower.

So how do you deal with life when you’re hurt? Whether it’s a Christian or a non-Christian who hurt you, the answer is the same.

The moon in the evergreens at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

The moon in the evergreens at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verses are Romans 12:17-21.

Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone. Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, “I will take revenge; I will pay them back,” says the Lord. Instead, “If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals of shame on their heads.” Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.

Living peacefully among people is a difficult task, but it’s not impossible. With God’s help, we can do anything, but achieving peace with imperfect people is a doozy.

The plain and simple truth is that some people won’t be peaceful, no matter what you do or say. Some people insist on chaos between people, and that is up to them. If that’s the way they choose to live, that’s between them and God. But if you want to live the way God commands, you need to take steps to live at peace with the people around you.

The best way to do that is to live the way God says. Love Him. Love people. Forgive people. Be kind. Be generous. Be faithful. Be reliable. Be the kind of person people can see Christ in.

Will that bring peace between you and everyone you meet? No. Because some people refuse peace, but that’s their choice. Your job is to live your life so everyone can see that you belong to Christ, even when people hurt you.

Don’t drop everything you believe in and attack the people who’ve hurt you. Don’t aim to discredit the people who’ve hurt you. Don’t do everything in your power to hurt them back. Yes, communicate with them. Yes, tell them that they hurt you, give them the chance to reconcile (half the time, I swear people don’t even know the damage their words and actions do). But don’t take it on yourself to set things right because that’s a task too big for you.

We’re puny, weak little humans. We don’t know what right is. The only one who can set things right is God, and it’s up to Him to sort things out in the end. And He will. He’s promised He will. It won’t be in our timing. It won’t be when we want Him to, but He will make it happen.

But in the mean time, ask God for help to forgive the people who’ve hurt you and move on with your life. In my experience, those times when I’ve been hurt so deeply I couldn’t move on were at moments I really needed to. But that could just be me. I’m really, really stubborn, and sometimes God needs to use a 2×4 on me to get me to budge. So it may have been the only way to get me to open my eyes. And in that case, how can I think poorly of the people who hurt me? They’re just as flawed and imperfect as I am. And without what they did to me I wouldn’t be where I am now.

God can take hurt and pain and transform it into something beautiful. He can take the wreck of our lives and make it into something new. Don’t take that precious gift and throw it away just for the temporary satisfaction of hurting someone who hurt you. It’s not worth it. That’s like on step forward and three steps back.

You’re going to get hurt. That’s the way life works. But you don’t have to live in fear of it because God can use it. God can use anything. And when all is said and done, God will set everything right. He sees everything, and He sees the truth.

So let it go. Stop holding on to the hurt. You don’t have to. You’re free to love people, especially the people who hurt you.