I’ve learned that my attitude has a great deal of bearing on my responses to people who are harsh, insulting, mean or thoughtless toward me. If retaliation is the first thing that comes to mind, whatever I do is going to be inappropriate and cause more harm than good.
However, if I am trusting in the Lord “who judges righteously,” then my words and actions cause no harm. Sometimes God even uses them to change the situation.
I’m reading 1 Peter 3 which continues the theme from chapter two about having a submissive spirit. Most people don’t like that word submissive for it implies ‘doormat’ but the biblical definition is more like: ‘being free from the tyranny of always needing to have my own way.’ Selfishness is a tyrant and the only way to be free from it is in trusting the Lord to take care of me. When I do, He will.
Verses 8-12 make this a promise. God says,
“Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. For, ‘Whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech. He must turn from evil and do good; he must seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.’”Obviously God gives profound attention to the lives of His children. If I slip into disharmony, or unkind and unloving actions and attitudes, He is going to deal with me. He wants me to be a blessing, regardless of how other people act or how they treat me.
However, when I obey Him, He affirms that I will “inherit a blessing” and suggests that keeping my mouth and heart from evil will result in “good days.” When I seek and pursue peace, He gives it to me. Further, He hears my prayers and acts on my behalf.
So how do I pray for my enemies? From these verses, I know that He is “against” them for any evil actions they take toward me, but I cannot retaliate or talk back. What is left? Jesus shows me. When His enemies nailed Him to the cross, He said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
Sometimes those who do evil seem to know exactly what they are doing, but maybe they don’t. Maybe they don’t realize they are pitting themselves against a child of Almighty God. Maybe they don’t know that if He decided, they would not draw another breath. Maybe they don’t know that every one of us lives by the grace of God, and apart from His kindness and mercy, we would perish.
Putting aside personal reasons for wanting someone to stop being a jerk is easier when I start to look at them as God does. He sees a rebellious and lost soul, a person in darkness without knowledge of Him or how much they matter to Him. He sees someone who really doesn’t know what they are doing, someone He can forgive because His Son died for every sin they commit.
This is the Gospel, the good news. When my mind stays on this wonder of wonders, I cannot begin to think of getting even or returning insult for insult. I’m a sinner too, and just as much in need of His grace and forgiveness.
Besides, God offers both to everyone—even if not everyone wants it, accepts His offer, or is changed by His power. He wants me to have that same gracious spirit, that attitude of longing for people to turn from their sin and embrace His mercy.
Being like Jesus doesn’t mean I should accept evil, but it does mean that I leave it up to Him to do something about it. If He does not change my enemies, the only thing left for me is to keep my own heart at peace, be free from sin and always ready to do whatever He asks of me.