Growing up I was often made fun of for being a rambunctious kid that couldn’t sit still or obey very well. I even overheard my second grade teacher complaining to others about how difficult I was. And whenever I felt intimidated or hurt, I felt provoked to fight, rather than flight. But my response always created even more trouble for me.
When I was in sixth grade, there were two older boys who often waited by my bus stop for me and my little brother to get home from school. They were a lot bigger than us, and as mean as rabid pit bulls. They rode their bikes in circles around us and called us names while we walked home every day. It didn’t bother me to be called names because I could hurl flaming insults right back with the best of them. But when they started getting physical a vicious fire rumbled inside of me that spawned an evil spirit of revenge in me, so I devised a plan to retaliate.
I carefully collected a pile of the most jagged rocks I could find and created a hidden arsenal of ammunition near our bus stop. I put a few of the best stones into my backpack and encouraged my little brother to do the same. We were ready to ambush the bullies. Then, as our bus pulled to a stop the next day, we had our secret weapons ready-in-hand. And as soon as we got our chance, we took aim and threw our rocks as hard as we could at our cruel oppressors.
Things did not go how I planned. I had envisioned they would surrender and run away as they cried for their mommies, but I was wrong. Instead, they quickly gathered large handfuls of gravel from the side of the road and hurled them at us with a fierce retaliation. Hundreds of sharp pellets rained down on us. The miniature asteroid shower stung every inch of our skin and got gritty dust in our eyes, which made it impossible to protect ourselves from the bath of stinging pain.
I was furious. A dark anger whirled around inside me. And despite my weakened condition, I dropped my books, wiped my face, and put my fists up in the air ready to fight. I screamed, “I’M GOING TO KILL YOU!” But my threat didn’t disarm them. Instead they came right towards us. And when they grabbed my brother by the collar, I quickly picked up my metal Mickey Mouse lunch box and swung it violently at the head of the larger boy with every bit of energy I could muster up. But at the perfect moment, the bully flinched out of the way and my follow through landed square in the face of my little brother instead. I was in shock. Then, as if I were possessed by demons, I gnashed my teeth and growled, “Look what you made me do!”
I pushed our tormentors out of the way, put my arm around my little brother, and walked him home as quickly as I could while they continued to mock me. When we got there my mother was alarmed at the sight of my brother’s face, which was profusely bleeding. I gasped for breath while I explained how I had hit him with my lunch box. However, in the flurry of activity I failed to mention how I was defending him from giants. She swept him away from me and rushed him to the doctor. And I was grounded.
In Luke 6:27-28 the Bible says, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” Why would God ask us to do that? Is He asking us to excuse an injustice against us? Verse 32 explains, “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that.”
Romans 12:17-20 says, “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord.”
As Christians, our response during persecution should be what sets us apart from others. When we exhibit patience, kindness and unconditional love towards others, despite how they have treated us, then our light can shine like a bright beacon in an otherwise dark world. Then we can help others find healing and forgiveness as well.
God is all about justice. He wants to vindicate and protect us from evil, but we must learn to trust Him. He may not respond in the same timeframe or way we would, but He has the power to turn all things around for good. He longs to wrap His loving, protective arms around us.
Numerous times in my life I attempted to retaliate against wrongdoings, but I usually failed in my efforts and made things even worse. I finally learned to take my burdens to God and allow Him to move on my behalf instead. And since then, He has given me incredible peace, wisdom, strength and endurance. I’m not suggesting we should cower or not seek help, or even legal intervention, when we need to. It’s very important to surround ourselves with family, friends and counselors to help us through difficult trials. But learning to trust God, rather than becoming vengeful, bitter and hateful, is critical to living in victory, rather than living as a victim.