In a world full of people who have not cultivated the discipline of listening to others before judging them, Christians have the unique opportunity to model the guiding principles within Christian faith that we call grace and compassion. In a time when it seems that we are increasingly likely to hear of violent reactions of a person or group of people toward another because of the perception that the other is evil or inferior in some way, God’s children have a special calling to do more than just react.
Human wisdom and conventional, worldly logic tell us that it is time to fight, to take, to oppose and to exact revenge. Fear, hate, and violence are heaped upon fear, hate, and violence. Yet God interrupts us today with a different outlook and a different path.
Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles” (Matthew 5:38-41 ESV).
This is addressing our tendency to react. This is not addressing the call to bring what is wrong in our society into alignment with God’s Kingdom. We MUST oppose racism. We MUST oppose the wrongful oppression of others. We MUST oppose the taking of the lives of innocents.
But, as God’s people, we also must NOT allow the evil of others to be the agents of our thinking, saying, and doing of evil things. The Lord Jesus was addressing the evil in us as we take into our own hands the parceling out of judgment on others who have in our minds offended us. And He reminds us that He does not treat us that way. Instead, He patiently works to bridge the divide that exists between us and Him because of our sin and graciously bring us out of sin’s bondage into a genuine relationship with Himself even though we do not deserve it.
One test for whether or not our reaction to the harm that others have caused us is whether or not it is ultimately redemptive. Will my response help us to overcome what divides us or will it only drive us farther apart? To those who are tempted to say, “We must get others back for what they have done,” they clearly do not understand – or trust – that God is on His throne and will ultimately call every single deed, every thought and every word, into account. How very sobering because every one of us ultimately must stand before Him (see 1 Peter 4:5).
But what grace and mercy He has shown us in that while we all fall short, we may experience His forgiveness and, as we do so, we may extend that same mercy and forgiveness to others. This is what God’s grace does as it grabs hold of us and sets us free. As Christians today, the platform has been given to us to now show what real grace and real love look like. After all, we have the best picture of all in the sacrifice that Jesus did on the cross when He gave His life for sinners like you and me.
(Thom Mollohan and his family have ministered in southern Ohio the past 24 ½ years, is the author of Led by Grace, The Fairy Tale Parables, Crimson Harvest, and A Heart at Home with God. He blogs at “unfurledsails.wordpress.com.” Pastor Thom leads Pathway Community Church and may be reached for comments or questions by email at [email protected] Viewpoints expressed are the work of the author.)