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08 October 2010

A Dish Best Served Cold?

Don’t testify against your neighbors without cause;
    don’t lie about them.
And don’t say, “Now I can pay them back for what they’ve done to me!
    I’ll get even with them!”
- Proverbs 24:28-29 (NLT)

Here's a really simple principle. Don't try to get revenge on people. "Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you," is the way Jesus put it. Like so many other instructions we're given, this sounds like a really great principle. It's one we hold to tightly.. until someone does something to us that we're sure deserves our retailation, if for no other reason than to teach them a lesson.

I've found that I don't struggle with this concept unless I'm thrust into a situation where I actually have to practice it. Then my inner desire for self-defense -- the entitlement impulse -- tempts me by saying that all bets are off. But the times when it's most difficult to obey the Word are actually the times I believe it's most critical that we do obey. It's no good to rationalize and tell yourself why you're justified in some kind of retribution. The fact is that we're not given liberty to do that.

Paul wrote in Romans 12:19, "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." In essence, if we decide we're justified in retaliating whether it's in action or by simply ignoring someone (or maybe deleting them from your friend list on Facebook), we're stepping in to try to fill God's shoes, if only for a moment. That's the height of arrogance.

It's interesting to me that the writer of Proverbs groups this with lying about your neighbor.

I've learned that the best response, instead of taking offense in any given situation, is to start by getting over myself.

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