Secret Retaliation

“John” is in church leadership in a neighboring congregation. Some time ago the two of us were discussing how hurtful people in our flocks can be. “Paul,” he was saying, “you and I both know that when you’re the shepherd, it’s easy for people to be critical and condemning and to take cheap shots at you…TIME AND TIME AGAIN!” I nodded, because I knew exactly what “John” was talking about. He continued. “Sometimes people will condemn you one-on-one; sometimes they’ll take a shot at you in front of others; and other times you’ll hear what’s been said indirectly from another source.”

“Now Paul,” he was saying, “The thing I struggle with is this: Even though it hurts, over a period of time I can usually forgive those who’ve been condemning of me. And yet when things don’t go well for those who’ve been critical; when they make unwise choices and then need to suffer the consequences; when their children don’t turn out well; when they have reverses in life (financial or otherwise), what I find myself thinking is, “All right brother–all right sister–you’ve had it coming to you, and I don’t feel ONE BIT SORRY for you. POUR IT ON, Lord!”

“I struggle with those feelings again and again,” “John” confessed. And as I listened as this neighboring colleague bared his soul, my only response was, “Brother, I’ve been there! I know where you’re coming from!” How easy it is to gloat over the misfortunes that have come to those who’ve hurt you; how easy it is to revel in the adversities that befall those who’ve taken cheap shots at you; how easy it is to delight in the ill winds that blow upon those who’ve condemned you. How EASY it is to fall into that trap!

But we need to be reminded that our forgiveness of those who’ve hurt us needs to be total and complete, just as God’s forgiveness is. This is the glorious basis of the New Covenant, in that Christ’s death on the cross means for each of us TOTAL forgiveness. In fact, God doesn’t remember our sins that have been covered by Jesus’ blood (Jeremiah 31:34 and Hebrews 10:17).

All of us have experienced hurt, whether you’re in church leadership or not. And while Satan may tempt you to retaliate–to return evil for evil–in Jesus’ name rebuke him and tell him he’s a defeated foe!

–Paul W. Brubaker