Christians like everybody else are often provoked by circumstances to retaliate. It is not a secret that some Christians have been publicly reported to have taken shocking moves in retaliation. Often retaliation happen reflex, wherein the believer faces the shame of having acted in a manner that does not resemble Christ. In this post I will take a close look into how believers have been guided on the subject of retaliation.
Jesus our teacher, leader and example
In all things, Jesus is not only our teacher but He is also our example and leader. He did instruct believers on how to react in case they are provoked to retaliate.
In Matthew 5:38 – 40, Jesus addressed this subject in clear terms. He acknowledged the prevailing status at the time of “an eye for an eye” but then moved on to guide His followers, which includes us. The opening phrase of verse 39 sets the tone for the believers when it says, “…, do not resist an evil person”. What then we should do seems strange and looks foolish to the world. Jesus says, “…If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also”. Verse 40 and 41 give further examples of how a believer should react when facing the call to retaliate.
Why should a believer react like this? Jesus does not reveal what happens in the spiritual realm when the believer reacts as He guides. However, Paul in the book of Romans 12:19 gives an answer when he says that this is done to give room for God’s wrath to kick in because vengeance belongs to Him. There are no conditions to this rule; it applies across all situations we face. There is no situation beyond the guidance given by the Bible. When we read from verse 17, Paul reiterates that a believer should not pay evil for evil. He even says that we must be careful to do right in the eyes of everyone.
Jesus as an example
Jesus was faced with instances where He retaliated but in His unique way, which we must follow. I want to focus on His crucifixion as one instance where He would have used His kingship right. Being King, He would have made a clear statement on His retaliation but He didn’t. Jesus even shared an idea of His option of calling thousands of angels to protect Him and his team (Matthew 26:53). I do note that He was not bragging about this option but exhorting one of His own to do things right and change the mindset.
It is recorded that Jesus was spit upon (Matthew 26:67) and slapped (John 18:22) in the cheek. He didn’t give the other cheek but kept His cool and conversed in a sober way. He did not resist the evil people that attached Him but engaged with them. Jesus asked why He deserved the slap and the Bible.
We may also not turn the other cheek but enquire why we deserve the treatment we get from our offenders. We are not to resist the evil person but the one we should resist is the devil (James 4:7). Allow me to further expound on Jesus’ reaction. Jesus could have allowed the first provocation, say the spit, but then resisted the slap. He could have chosen to prove His might to the people. That in itself can be likened to turning the other cheek. The good news is that Jesus had to do what His Father had assigned Him at all cost.
Having learnt from Jesus, our mindset should be aligned to His, likewise our reaction in all things. This is a reminder to believers. It may happen that for you it calls for you to withdraw some of the cases you are pursuing. You may have to apologize, restitute and reconcile with your offenders. This is not easy yet it is a calling for all believers. What benefit is it to know what to do but not do it. James 1:22 exhorts believers to be doers of the word.
I want to touch on church relations as an example because so much has come from it with believers. It would seem that believers have forgotten or downplay the teachings of Jesus Christ, both the offenders as well as the offended. It happens that brethren or even leaders of the church mistreat you. We have heard of believers who have retaliated in various unbiblical ways. Examples include those that sue, threaten, criticize, challenge in court and judge their offenders. This is not right for you to do but you should give room for God’s wrath to take over. Never resist an evil person. Leave everything to God and let Him revenge on your behalf in His own way, which will surely not be in your terms.
I am not praying for the retaliation challenge to come my way but I do pray for God’s help should I face it. Jesus taught that we should pray not to enter into temptation which should be a prayer for every believer. The flip side of this is that when temptations come, they present opportunities for us be perfected, strengthened (1 Peter 5:10) and also demonstrate how Christians behave in such circumstance.
May God grant you the wisdom and courage to behave in a Chistlike manner should you be faced with a situation where you are provoked to retaliate.