Monday, October 22, 2018

Not Retaliating When We're Attacked

[Below are reflections on my quiet time with God for today. It should be made clear that the words written by the apostle Peter on which I reflect here don't apply to governments, who have the responsibility of protecting their citizens, although I think it does apply to those who serve in government who confess faith in Jesus Christ. Peter's words apply to anyone who claims to follow Christ and who is part of His body, the Church. To see how I approach Quiet Time, see here.]

Look: “...if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. ‘He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.’ When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.” (1 Peter 2:20b-23)

Later in this letter, Peter will tell the Christians of Asia Minor, then facing rejection for their faith in Christ, out of reverence for Christ, to “...Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.” (1 Peter 3:15-16)

But in the verses from chapter 2, Peter is making it clear just how costly and how hard it is to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. It may mean that we suffer for doing good, things like loving our neighbor or sharing Christ with them. When our faith engenders criticism, rejection, or even persecution, we’re to always be prepared to explain the bases for our hope in Christ, but, like our Savior, never retaliate. That's true even when we're slandered, ridiculed, marginalized, or harmed. We’re to simply place ourselves and our witness for Christ in the hands of the Father to Whom Jesus entrusted Himself.

Listen: This passage causes me to reflect on the ways in which I have “retaliated” against people who have criticized me. I fear that sometimes, I’ve gone beyond simply staking out my position, explaining my faith in Christ or where it has led me, instead, attacking others. Sometimes the “attacks” were so subtle that only God and I know about it. But I can’t live by a “no harm, no foul” ethos.

Retaliation is not of Christ. He faithfully bore suffering, refusing to meet fire with fire, though nobody in history had more reason to retaliate against those who falsely accused Him (or more power to retaliate) than Christ. By refusing to strike back and instead, submitting to the Father, He was able to fulfill His mission of dying and rising for the rest of us who deserve punishment and death for our sins. My call is to trust in the Father Who saw Jesus through and raised Him up on Easter. Through my faith in Jesus, I can trust that the Father will, on the last day, raise me from the dead and give me life in eternity.

Response: Forgive me, God, for relying on anything other than You and for wanting to counter-attack, prove others wrong, or secure a superior position. 

Help me to follow Christ confidently, but without arrogance. 

Help me to be able always to share my hope in Christ and my points of view rooted in Christ. 

Help me to admit when I’ve been wrong. 

Help me also not to retaliate, not to be hostile, not to engage in behavior or words that dishonor You or the cause of the Gospel. 

Today especially, help me to remember to seek Your wisdom for all I say and do so that I can give You glory and not give any human being a rational, sustainable reason for rejecting Christ. In His name I pray. Amen

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