Payback?

Contentiousness and evil are expressed, not just with weapons, but even more often with words, aren’t they? Bullying – in person and especially online is at epidemic proportions. Conversation in the civil arena seems only marginally better. We excuse the worst kind of behavior – both in words and in action – with the excuse, “Well, this other group was doing it long before I started.” Sometimes it sounds as though our public conversation is coming from the playground.  

If my children were here, they could tell you of the lack of success that they had whenever they came to me, seeking to justify their behavior with the explanation that someone else had first done something equally bad. You can imagine my reply. It was typically some form of, “Well, that may be true, but in this family we……yada, yada, yada.” You know how it goes.

Today politicians on all sides routinely justify their verbal attacks, lying, legislative inertia, incompetence, and outright obstructionism by the misbehavior of opposing groups. Wow, if we don’t let our five-year old children get away with this argument, why do we let our politicians?

There is another way.

Paul suggests that we live in a world where we constantly have choices. Things come to us – things good and bad come to us as part of a cycle, a system, a course of action. When it becomes our turn, when we are up, are we simply going to join in? Are we going to enter into the cycle as a participant? Are we going to continue the course of events – maybe even accelerate them so that the brokenness continues?

Or, are we going to say no? Are we going to say, to the extent that we are able, that on this day and in this event, this cycle of behavior – at the very least – will not include me if not will actually stop with me?  Will the cycle of evil, the cycle of misbehavior stop with me or will it be encouraged or even accelerated by me?

No longer is mutually assured destruction a permissible course of behavioral action. No eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth. No. Jesus radically elevates our opportunity. Not only are we not to meet an adversary with a negative – albeit defensive response, no. Now we are to act in our adversary’s best interest. That doesn’t mean caving. That doesn’t mean being a willing floor mat to be walked on. But it does mean acting and desiring God’s best for everyone we encounter, even those that oppose us.

It means being fair to those who may not be fair. It means being honest, even with those who are willing to be dishonest. It means rejecting the cynical notion that the ends justify the means. It means being willing to sacrifice for those who oppose you for the greater good of all.

We are called to break the cycles of evil as they come by us. Are you willing? How do yu see that happening?