Wednesday, July 01, 2009
Current Study: First Peter
Today’s Topic: Be a Blessing
Scripture Reading: 1 Peter 3:9 Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.
One of my favorite old time television shows was Amos and Andy. My memory does not allow me to remember any specific details of the show, but I do remember it being very funny. Someone with a better memory than I, Gaylord Goertsen, writes about an episode of the show in the February 26, 1991 issue of The Christian Leader.
On an old “Amos and Andy” television program, Andy was angry. There was a big man who would continually slap Andy across the chest every time they met. Andy finally had enough of it. He told Amos, “I’m going to get revenge. I put a stick of dynamite in my vest pocket. The next time he slaps me on the chest he’s going to get his hand blown off.” But Andy forgot that the dynamite would also blow his own heart out. Revenge may hurt the other person but it always blows our own heart out.
From the lips of Jesus to the Holy Spirit inspired writings of Paul and Peter, we are commanded in Scripture to love our enemies, and do good to those who harm us. Revenge and repayment of wrong is never an option for the follower of Christ.
That’s hard for us, isn’t it? Our first thoughts after being hurt by someone usually involve some form of retribution. Even if we choose not to do anything about it, the lingering thought of “Someday they’ll get what’s coming to them” reveals the true nature of our heart. The heart of Christ has no room for any desire for harm to anyone. His justice requires the payment for sin, but His heart desires forgiveness.
Chuck Colson tells the following story. Jimmy Gibson, an Ulster defense terrorist held in Northern Ireland’s McGilligan Prison, used to kill Catholics for fun. But in a Bible study one night, Jimmy gave his life to Christ.
That prison had an invisible dividing line between Catholics and Protestants. One night at dinner, Gibson got up, walked across the mess hall and found a seat at random among the Catholic prisoners. He leaned over and said to a guy named Liam McCloskey, “Brother, I want to tell you about Jesus.”
That whole mess hall went silent. People expected a riot. The guards went after their guns. But the two sat and talked. Over those next weeks, Jimmy ate every night with the Catholic prisoners. In time, he led McCloskey to Christ.
In 1983 I was at Queens College in Belfast, with eleven hundred Protestants and Catholics-the first time they’d come together. Jimmy Gibson walked up to the platform on one side, Liam McCloskey came up the other, and they threw their arms around one another. Liam told the crowd, “Two years ago on the street I’d have killed this man. Today he’s my brother in Christ. I’ll lay down my life for him.”
Loving our enemies is for our own good. Jesus didn’t teach us to love our enemies for their good, even though they will benefit from it. Loving our enemies and doing good to those who terrorize us is for our good – it keeps us from becoming the enemy.
But it feels so good to dwell on the wrong. That’s what many of us think. Hannah Whitehall Smith in The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life, writes, Have you never tasted the luxury of indulging in hard thoughts against those who have, as you think, injured you? Have you never known what a positive fascination it is to brood over their unkindnesses, and to pry into their malice, and to imagine all sorts of wrong and uncomfortable things about them? It has made you wretched, of course, but it has been a fascinating sort of wretchedness that you could not easily give up.
Sure, thoughts of revenge and plots to repay seem somewhat satisfying at the time, but in time, they will destroy us. We will become bitter and distasteful to those around us. We will get eaten up with pain and become cynical. But it will not bring us peace and joy. Rather, we will become the enemy, because we have allowed the Enemy of our soul to rule our spirit and control our mind.
Christ’s heart in us convinces us of something better, not bitter. The better way to live is to be a blessing. Release the burdens of your hurts, and become a blessing to those who burdened you in the first place. You’ll discover that they really weren’t the burden after all – your attitude towards them was.