Tag Archives: revenge

Firm in What?

Wars and rumours of war aren’t indicators of Jesus’ return.  Neither are famines and earthquakes.  Jesus called those things “the beginning of birth pains.”  First labor pains ordinarily indicate the start of an unstoppable progression of events but not the imminent conclusion of them.  So what indicators did Jesus say would tip us off the time was drawing close?   Among other signs, Jesus included this troubling thought:

 12 Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold,  (Matthew 24:12)

The more we encounter wickedness, the more  tempted we are to respond in kind.  The recent sniping murder of Dallas policemen is a sad case in point.  Somebody thought, “Enough is enough; I’m going to make someone pay.”  That’s an extreme example.  Maybe you would never go that far.  But Jesus taught us to actually respond in the opposite way:

27 “…Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.”  (Luke 6:27b-28)

When most people find it too tough to respond to wickedness with love, that is a sign the end times are drawing to a close, that Jesus is coming soon.  What do you think?  Are we there yet?  Has the love of most grown cold?  If you had to make the call, based on your own attitudes, what would you say?  For me, that is a sobering question.

But don’t give up!  No matter what, don’t abandon love.  That first quote above is only the beginning of Jesus’ sentence.  Here’s the whole thing:

12 Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold,  13 but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. (Matthew 24:12-13)

Stands firm in love.

Powerful Love

What would you do if your power was unlimited?  If you had the power to do anything, what would it be?  You could find a phone booth, grab your cape and be like Superman, flying about avenging injustice and stomping out evil.  Sound good?  It did to Jesus.  Except Jesus  didn’t use a phone booth and a cape.  No x-ray vision, no powerful explosions.  The first equipment He used included a bowl, a washcloth, and a towel.

 It was just before the Passover Feast. Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love. … Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God;  so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist.  After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.  –  (John 13:1–5 excerpts (NIV84))

This was an act considered so demeaning, it could only be required of a gentile slave.  Jesus knew there was no limit to the power God had given Him, so He humbled Himself and did what seemed to be the least powerful thing.  What He did seemed weak, but in fact, that act of love still powerfully rips through the earth, destroying evil wherever it is remembered and imitated.

I suppose Jesus, with all power at His command, could have refused to go to the Cross.  But He used His power to endure the assignment given by His Father, knowing it would ultimately defeat evil forever.  At the time of His arrest, as Peter whipped out his sword to resist,

 Jesus commanded Peter, “Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?”  –  (John 18:11 (NIV84))

When Pilate was looking for an excuse to release Him,

Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place.”  –  (John 18:36 (NIV84))

In this world, people try to overcome evil with increasingly powerful acts of violence.  We brag about “shock and awe.”  We post signs saying, “This property protected by Smith and Wesson.”  Of course, the bad guys are using the same tactics.  Violence proliferates.  But Jesus’ Kingdom is not of this world, and He knows those ways don’t work.  Because He had unlimited power, He chose unlimited acts of humble, powerful love.

His way works.  His way wins.


Revenge (or Not)

You would never have heard of the Hatfields and McCoys if either of those families believed Jesus. Lots of folks say they believe in Jesus; they just don’t believe Him, especially when He says things like this:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’** But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.” (Matthew 5:38-39)

It’s understandable for people to doubt that teaching. The urge to get revenge is so deeply seated in us and feels so satisfying, that Jesus’ teaching seems preposterous. I would guess that no other theme has been more predominant in movies than the one in which the good guy finally gets tasty revenge over the bad guy. And yet Jesus says, don’t do it. Instead, make a decision to not resist.

Jesus isn’t talking about cowering in fear. He means for us to turn the tables on our adversary, by responding generously to his hurt or his need. He continued with this:

“And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.” (Matthew 5:40-42)

These teachings go together; the same Spirit that governs and enables the second part, also informs and directs the first. Without that Spirit, they seem ridiculous and are impossible to sustain. With God’s Spirit, they fit together with beauty and grace. The best illustration I know of how powerful and healing such actions can be is in another movie: Les Miserables. If you have seen it, think about the gift of candlesticks to the thief, and all that ensued. In you have not seen it, there’s your homework! Do it today!

When a person recognizes Jesus as God, understands the depth and sincerity of the love He poured out on the cross, and fully trusts Him, God’s Spirit begins to live in his or her soul. As He begins to transform our minds, things like not taking revenge but responding to an evil person with grace and understanding, that made no sense before, now seem not only beautiful, but also possible.