Many people struggle to overcome the temptation to take vengeance into their own hands. However, Paul once wrote, "Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord. On the contrary: If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink… Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." (Romans 12:19-21) It takes the grace of God to apply this truth in all areas of our life. When we have been cheated, abused, or falsely accused it is our natural tendency to try to return evil for evil. Consider Jesus Christ’s response to mistreatment. "When they hurled insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, He entrusted Himself to Him who judges justly." (I Pet. 2:23) Let us understand the proper ways to identify with Christ when we are unjustly treated.
1. Do not be surprised that you are called to suffer indignities, abuses, or mistreatments for Jesus’ sake. All of life is not fair. "Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But, rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory rests upon you." (I Pet. 4:12-14) The more we identify with Christ and His ministries the more we will share in His empowerment, purposes, and processes.
2. Recognize that the Lord may allow certain abuses for your greater humility, purity and godliness. Sometimes the only way that God is able to get through our thick skulls is to show us how we need His intercessory help. Job endured great abuse from his friends, family and even his beloved wife who told him, "Just curse God and die." All of these mistreatments allowed Job to know that God’s sovereign will is often beyond human understanding. Yet, Job was able to resign himself to the truth, "Lord, I know you can do all things and no purpose of yours can be thwarted." (Job 42:1,2)
3. Remember to be like the patient farmer who endures great uncertainties with the weather until he finally harvests the crops. "See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop…You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near. Don’t grumble against each other, brothers, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door. (James 5:7-9)It is often said that farmers have to endure many seasonal changes, severe weather or draught before they are able to see miraculously how God brings in them to harvest time. We are all spiritual farmers who are dependent on the Lord in all areas for a fruitful harvest. Everything we have comes from God. The world, the people in it, and all of the affairs of life are in the hands of God. Remember the great song, "He’s got the whole world, in His hands!"
4. Persevere through times of uncertainty but be assured that your difficult experience will make you either better or bitter. Remind yourself we receive great blessings for persevering. "You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy." (James 5:11,12)
5. Consider how the prophets of God worked through misunderstandings for the greater glory of God. Jeremiah was called the weeping prophet. Jesus said, "Blessed are those who mourn (for the lack of righteousness) for they shall be comforted." (Matt. 5:4) We should expect to receive no better treatment than the great prophets who persisted amidst terrible abuses with their own people.
6. If someone sins against you lovingly go and discuss the problem without being indignant. Jesus said, "If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses." (Matt. 18:15,16) It is better to privately deal with problems while they are small rather than wait until they get blown out of proportion.
7. Avoid the temptation to take your grievance before the ungodly in a legal setting. Paul writes, "If any of you has a dispute with another, dare he take it before the ungodly for judgment instead of before the saints? Do you not know that the saints will judge the world?" (I Cor. 6:1,2) For the sake of our Christian testimony it is better not to air our dirty laundry in public view.