“Do not repay evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody.” -Romans 12:17
Angie skipped through the front door of our apartment, ready to join my children for an afternoon of play. They did this everyday when their schoolwork was done, running and laughing with the neighborhood kids. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a gleaming object in Angie’s hand, which she hid by her side. “Angie, what is this thing you have carried here?” I asked. From the side of her shirt, 13 year old Angie pulled out a long thin dagger. Startled I said, “What are you planning to do with this?” Angie said, “Well Auntie there is a young boy who is always troubling us on his bike downstairs, so today I plan to take this dagger and puncture his tires.” I looked at Angie in the eyes and said, “Please don’t do this thing. It will hurt the boy too much.” Angie was silent for a bit then said, “Okay Auntie, I will not puncture, but I will only leak all the air out.”
Just like Angie, we all face the temptation to take revenge at some time in our lives. From minor irritations and conflicts to more serious issues of abuse, often the hurt tempts us to bitterness and rage. For Angie, she thought if she could flatten the boy’s bike tires, he would feel sad and she would feel happy. However, would flat tires be the end of the problem or the beginning of a new one? There is a saying, “Abandon the quarrel before it breaks out,” and that is good. How do we abandon the quarrel after it breaks out?
These days it seems like everywhere we turn there are quarrels in all directions. Tensions in the workplace, in our homes, on the streets and in our churches. While many are talking about world peace, all around us we see wars, riots, communal violence and family feuds. We just can’t seem to get along. As one teacher said, “Every problem in the world is a relationship problem.” Think about it. Every war, riot, and family split all began with a personal conflict: at one point a tiny flame that smoldered into a raging fire. Is there anything we can do to stop the plague of revenge, pride and hate that is spreading such pain and brokenness? Is there divine help for the problems we face?
The violence, anger and retaliation we see tearing up families, friends and whole nations are really just symptoms. For instance, physical symptoms are things that may lead us to go see a doctor. Maybe we have a fever or stomach pain, and can’t sleep. When we make an appointment to see the doctor, we want him to fix our problem. If he is a good doctor, he will not just treat our surface troubles but he will also look for the root of the illness. Perhaps our body has been invaded by a parasite or we have a problem with our appendix that requires surgery. If the doctor only treated the surface symptoms, without going to the root of the trouble, then more serious consequences will result.
Mankind is sick, wrapped up in the chaos of broken relationships. Barely is one problem sorted out then another symptom comes to the surface. When God began to diagnose our troubles He went right to the source. The prophet Isaiah wrote, “…your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.” (Isaiah 59:2)
From the very beginning God intended humankind to walk near to Him. Adam and Eve (the first man and woman) enjoyed close friendship with God. They walked with Him in the garden. This closeness was torn one day when Adam and Eve obeyed a cunning serpent, going against God’s wise instructions. Afterwards. Genesis records, “And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and wife hid themselves form the presence of the Lord God…” (Genesis 3:8) On that day something very precious was broken. The friendship between man and God was damaged, and for the first time we see man hiding himself form the Creator.
Adam and Eve hid from God because they knew they had done something wrong. Their rebellion and guilt created a wall of separation. As Bible teacher, John Dawson explains, “Sin is that which violates relationships, the selfish acts that separate us from one another and from God.”
When sin or selfishness is present then we will see the symptoms of malice, tension, and all the venom that produces strained relationships. The New Testament writer said, “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?” (James 4:1) It is not possible to fix these problems by trying to be better people. We can never wash away one wrong with a thousand acts of kindness. That’s because our answer does not begin with ourselves, it begins with God. The good news is that our Great Physician not only diagnosed the problem, but He also made provision for the remedy.
“When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins…” -Colossians 2:13
“And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.” -1 John 4:16