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Wheat Field
  • trydstohn

Choosing Blessing over Retaliation

Updated: May 10, 2021


It is so very tempting these days to do unto others as they have done to us, especially when we have been mistreated. We often feel justified. But Jesus calls us to a different way, the benefit of which we only discover by following Jesus' example.


I have never understood why she did it. As a priest and rector of Trinity Church in Arlington, I have seen people do many things that to me are incomprehensible. This example stood out. For reasons unknown to me, one of my closest associates (or so I thought) decided no longer to be my friend. Instead of supporting me, she began criticizing and judging me. What hurt the most was that she never spoke directly to my face. She stayed in the shadows. I could feel the burn of her words and suffered the consequences, but we never talked about what happened or why. Then my chance came. Someone asked me what I thought about her. She was in line for a very important promotion and my voice seemed to matter. “Do you trust her?” the interviewer asked. I held my breath and paused before answering.


Choosing blessing over retaliation is not easy. Perhaps that’s why Jesus spends so much time, as recorded in the sixth chapter of Luke, explaining to his followers what choosing to bless instead of to mess looks like: “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. Do to others as you would have them do to you.” Jesus makes the work of always being a blessing to others an undergirding principle of life in God’s kingdom. I believe Jesus does this because he wants us to recognize what God already knows: a failure to let go and forgive does more harm to us than it does to our offenders.


In a sermon written in a Georgia jail and preached just after the 1950’s bus protest in Montgomery, Alabama, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said this about loving your enemies: “Of course this is not practical; life is a matter of getting even, of hitting back, of dog eat dog… My friends, we have followed the so-called practical way for too long a time now, and it has led inexorably to deeper confusion and chaos. Time is cluttered with the wreckage of communities which surrendered to hatred and violence.


For the salvation of our nation and the salvation of mankind, we must follow another way. This does not mean that we abandon our righteous efforts. With every ounce of our energy we must continue to rid this nation of the incubus of segregation. But we shall not in the process relinquish our privilege and our obligation to love. While abhorring segregation, we shall love the segregationist. This is the only way to create the beloved community." [1]


While choosing blessing over retaliation is not easy, it is what Jesus commands that we do, for our own sake, and for the sake of the beloved community Jesus came to create. As we continue to groan under the COVID-19 conditions that inhibit life as we once knew it, let us find new and joy generating ways to do to others as we would have them do to us. Trust in the Lord and do good. And the Lord, who through the power at work within us, is able to do abundantly far more than we can ask or imagine, will surely bring the desires of our hearts to pass.


By the way, when I opened my mouth to respond to that interviewer, I began to regale her with stories of the good days that my associate and I had enjoyed. The rest I commit to the hands of God. Amen.

[1] Martin Luther King, Jr., A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr., page 596, quoted by Chuck Queen, Love Your Enemies. Retrieved from https://sermons.com/home/illustrations/2019-02-24.



 

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