Listen: Chris Witts presents Morning Devotions.
In Part 1, I said that getting even with someone never works. If you looked at the Bible there’s some revolutionary teaching there.
We are not to attack our enemies; we are not to send them anonymous poisonous letters; we are not to spread around nasty stories about them. I’m sure you don’t, but the point the Bible is making is this: that you must not even ignore your enemy, avert your eyes and pretend you have not seen them.
In the NT there were a couple of religious Jews, a priest and a Levite, and each man was going on a journey and one by one as they were walking down a road they came across a man who had been beaten up, robbed and left half-dead, groaning at the roadside. Neither of these religious men slowed down. Each one moved across to the other side of the road and kept walking without a glance at the victim lying badly injured on the ground. Then a Samaritan passed by and he stopped and helped the man, though the Jewish victim was his enemy. He put him on his donkey and took him to an inn and paid for overnight accommodation for him.
Change Your Enemy Into a Friend
If your enemy has fallen on hard times we’re not to chuckle with pleasure and think, Well, he got what he deserved. If he is without food then you make a sandwich for him, and you give him a carton of apple juice to drink. Your enemy will get stronger if you do that, but that is not your worry. You must simply do your duty. If you are a Christian then you have to act contrary to your natural tendencies where your enemies are concerned. It could well change your whole life.
Talking today about revenge—what happens when I want to take out revenge on someone? Is revenge sweet? Some believe it is. Instead of hating him or her, you do loving things to those who’ve hurt you deeply and you will witness an amazing thing—you can turn your enemy right around and he becomes your friend. That’s the best way of getting rid of an enemy—changing him into a friend.
What are these ‘burning coals’ that Paul talks about in Romans 12? They can be many things: a gift, a kind word, a phone call, a brief note, a bunch of flowers, a meal, running an errand, a visit to the hospital, offering a ride, helping someone meet a deadline, stepping in at a time of need, putting in a good word with their superiors, assisting them with some unpleasant duty that has to be done. That’s the way you get even with your enemy, not looking for vengeance, not at all looking for vengeance. On the contrary, serving them. No-one says it comes naturally or is enjoyable. But it is the way God works, and we should listen.
Go the Extra Mile
Let’s hear again the extraordinary words of Jesus, the Son of God, in the Sermon on the Mount:
…don’t fight against the one who is working evil against you. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, you are to turn and offer him your left cheek. If someone connives to get your shirt, give him your jacket as well. If someone forces you to walk with him for a mile, walk with him for two instead. If someone asks you for something, give it to him. If someone wants to borrow something from you, do not turn away.
You have been taught to love your neighbour and hate your enemy. But I tell you this: love your enemies. Pray for those who torment you and persecute you—in so doing, you become children of your Father in heaven. He, after all, loves each of us—good and evil, kind and cruel. He causes the sun to rise and shine on evil and good alike. He causes the rain to water the fields of the righteous and the fields of the sinner. It is easy to love those who love you—even a tax collector can love those who love him. And it is easy to greet your friends—even outsiders do that! But you are called to something higher: “Be perfect, as your Father in heaven is perfect”. (Matthew 5:39-48 – The Voice)
Jesus says, “If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.” What the Lord is referring to here is a Roman custom. The Jews were in the Roman empire and they longed for freedom, hating to be under the rule of Rome. One of the hateful inconveniences of being under Rome was a law allowing an official to lay his hand on someone suddenly and force him to do a job for him. If you were a Roman soldier or a Roman civil servant you could impress someone for imperial business—a sort of press-gang.
[Jesus said] But you are called to something higher: “Be perfect, as your Father in heaven is perfect”. (Matthew 5:48 – The Voice)
In other words, if there were an official going down the road while you were minding your own business on a corner, your enemy could impress you into carrying his bags, taking them for a mile where he was going. He had the power to compel you to serve him, carrying his burden on the next stage of his journey. That’s what the Lord means when he says, “If he forces you to go one mile…”
You remember an occasion in the gospels when the soldiers taking Jesus to Calvary see him collapse in his weakness with his loss of blood. So they compel a man named Simon of Cyrene to carry the cross of the Lord Jesus. That’s the practice being referred to by the Lord Jesus.
(To be continued in Revenge that Sweet? – Part 3)