Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.
We are entering a time of trouble, moral horrors, and perversity. The tares are coming to maturity. Satanís personality increasingly will be revealed. The evil will be so virulent, so unjust, so filled with the poison of Hell, that the adamic nature of the Christian will be outraged and seek for vengeance.
How is the Christian to respond? The correct, scriptural response to evil will be necessary if the believer is to survive spiritually and stand in victory before the Lord Jesus Christ.
THE CHRISTIANíS RESPONSE TO EVIL
The wicked plot against the righteous and gnash their teeth at them; But the Lord laughs at the wicked, for he knows their day is coming. (Psalms 37:12,13)
In this morningís paper (October 31, 2001) there is an account of the killing of sixteen Pakistani Christians by masked gunmen. The congregation was sprayed with bullets killing Protestant worshipers, including Father Emmanuel, their minister.
The response of those who were not slain was "Blood for blood. We will pay them in the same kind."
Bishop Andrew Francis urged the Christians to adhere to the biblical principle of turning the other cheek.
Such reactions are understandable and to be expected, from the injured and from the ministry.
"Blood for blood. We will pay them in the same kind."
"Turn the other cheek."
But there may be a third response that is more scriptural and more constructive.
For years now I have been preaching about the danger of fretting. Psalms Thirty-seven commands us not to fret.
Do not fret because of evil men or be envious of those who do wrong; (Psalms 37:1)
Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; do not fret when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes. (Psalms 37:7)
Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fretóit leads only to evil. (Psalms 37:8)
To fret is to be vexed, troubled, worried.
Do not be vexed, troubled, or worried because of those who do wrong. Fretting leads only to evil.
Our place is at the right hand in Christ. Satan enjoys having us fret ourselves because of his antics in the earth. This is how he pulls us down from our high place of triumph in Christ.
Because of the great increase of evil, depravity, and perversity that is on the horizon, the temptation will be to fret continually. Fretting is not pleasing to God and reveals our spiritual immaturity, our lack of faith in God.
To cease fretting ourselves in the present hour in America requires first of all that we recognize fretting is sin; that it tears us down from our high place in Christ; that it will lead us into evil.
Second, we must denounce all fretting as sin, not worthy of a place in the Kingdom of God.
Third, we must renounce fretting, commanding it to leave our personality and not return.
Fourth, we are to draw near to God and ask Him to help us cease from all fretting.
We must take these four actions vigorously, with all the determination we possess. If we do not, we will continue to displease God by our fretting. In this case we are not a victorious saint but a defeated believer.
To abandon all fretting, ceasing to yield to the temptation to fret, is an extremely important aspect of the Christianís response to evil
A second aspect may be found in the following passage:
Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for Godís 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. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head." Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:17-21)
The above may be one of the passages that give rise to the common exhortation to "turn the other cheek."
Actually there is more to the passage than turn the other cheek.
Also, turning the other cheek can be extremely difficult if not impossible to do.
For example, what about the woman who was molested as a child? Do we tell her to forget what was done to her and permit herself to be abused further?
But let us examine the passage.
"Do not repay anyone evil for evil." Such behavior is an absolute "must" if we are to live victoriously in the Lord Jesus. There can be no "Blood for blood. We will pay them in the same kind."
Our Example in learning how to respond to evil is the Lord Jesus. The Lord never deliberately hurt someone in an act of revenge. In fact, most of the time He did not attempt even to justify Himself when He was accused.
"Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody." A member of our church told me recently that she had been treated meanly by a supervisor. Her response was not godly.
After praying about this she went to the supervisor and apologized for her inappropriate response. The supervisor hugged her and apologized for the mean way he had treated her. A woman standing nearby began to cry.
The Lord Jesus, our Example, always did what was right in the eyes of everybody. So must we; for as He is, so are we in this world. People expect Christians to rise above evil.
"If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone." Do not argue with anyone. Some people are looking for a fight. Do not respond in anger. Laugh with Isaac. If they want the well, give them the well.
In any confrontation, the more mature will give way in order to keep peace. Blessed are the peacemakers.
I am not saying we should abandon our principles. Rather, in the normal, irritating circumstances of life we are to strive for peace. When someone is defensive it is a waste of time to argue. Strive for peace. It takes two to fight.
Now we come to a scriptural injunction that often is overlooked.
"Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for Godís wrath, for it is written: ĎIt is mine to avenge; I will repay,í says the Lord."
When the minister advises us to "turn the other cheek" he always must be careful to impress on us that the Lord will repay.
We do not always emphasize what God has stated: "Vengeance is Mine. I will repay"!
We Christians may try to be "nice like Jesus." This will not work anymore. There is too much evil in the world. We are not going to be able to refrain from avenging ourselves until we are positive God is going to avenge the evil that has been done to us.
God has said He will avenge us. Are we then going to be more "loving" than God and say it is not necessary we be avenged?
Think about the woman who was molested when a young girl. This abominable practice is common in the American society.
Now she is thirty. She thinks back about the way her father or uncle treated her and she is outraged! She should be outraged!
Her father or uncle has created psychological hurdles in the path of a healthy marriage. She now has a controlling spirit. She may be torn between lust and frigidity. She may find herself picking the skin on her arm.
How can she forgive such an abominable invasion of her personality when she was defenseless? He who should have been her strong protector became her destroyer.
In order to walk with Jesus she must overcome this dreadful assault on her person.
Two aspects are necessary in the program of obtaining total victory.
First, she must come to the Lord as many times as required to receive the Virtue of the body and blood of the Lord. Finally the Divine good that is in the body and blood of Christ will overpower the poison of revenge. She will be able to forgive so she no longer has bitterness in her heart. She will be set free by the enormous power of the Divine Nature of Christ that has entered her, removing the memory of the moral filth and overcoming the cry for revenge.
The fact that she has forgiven the perpetrator of this heinous crime does not mean she now is required to maintain a normal relationship with him as though nothing had happened. And she should be very careful about any relationship he has with her children even if he is her father and their grandfather. It is his fault, not hers, that he no longer can have a normal relationship with his daughter and granddaughters. She should never leave them alone with him, for it is likely he will do to them as he did to her.
There is another aspect. She can feel confident in forgiving her father, knowing that God will avenge her. I cannot emphasize this truth enough: God shall avenge her in His own time and manner.
It is extremely important that she does not attempt to avenge herself. She can go about her business cheerfully with no anger whatever in her heart.
It is extremely important that she realize she shall be avenged. God saw what was done and God will repay.
But as Christians, should we actually want God to repay the evil done to us?
Certainly we should not dwell on the wrong. Sometimes in instances of wrong done (not in the case of molestation however) we actually may be at fault without realizing it. This is why it is so utterly important to keep going to the Lord until we have peace; and also why it is important that we do not keep hoping God will punish the offender. Who knowsóthe offender may be us!
God has said He will avenge us if we do not attempt to avenge ourselves. Let us use this as a basis for forgiveness, realizing that justice eventually will be done.
As for Christians waiting for justice to be done:
They called out in a loud voice, "How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?" Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and brothers who were to be killed as they had been was completed. (Revelation 6:10,11)
Notice that God did not rebuke them for desiring vengeance. Rather He told them to be patient. When we have been harmed by someone we wonder why God permits this wicked person to go unpunished. We have need of patience that after we have done the will of God we might receive the promise.
I know we have been taught for so long we should turn the other cheek that the thought of trusting in Godís vengeance can be unsettling. But it is likely that if you do not permit yourself to wait patiently for God to avenge you, you will end up fretting and harboring bitterness in your heart.
This world is an unjust place. If we are to accept the sufferings of Christ we need to realize we are going to be treated unjustly. When we are treated unjustly we must not strike back but overcome evil with the good of Christ. We can do this knowing that justice finally will be done.
"If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink."
No matter how much someone has injured us, if he says "I am hungry," and we have food, we are to feed him. This is Christís command through the Apostle Paul. If we find this difficult to do, we are to pray until we overcome evil with good.
But what does it say further?
"In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head."
Are these coals shame that is being heaped on him because you have returned good for evil? Or are they the burning judgment of God?
In either case, they are an appropriate torment visited on the evildoer.
You absolutely have to forgive your enemies or else your Father in Heaven will not forgive you. Also, you are not to rejoice when judgment falls on your enemy but rather go to God in prayer that you not be tempted to exult because of the suffering of another.
But suppose the man who molested his daughter then becomes a Christian. He says to his daughter, "My sins have all been forgiven. If you do not forgive me and accept Christ you will go to Hell"?
You wouldnít think people would do these kinds of things, but they do!
No matter how the molester threatens you with his new "salvation," never leave your children or grandchildren alone with him. The police tell us that molesters repeat their behavior once they are released from prison.
We Christians need to understand something very clearly. Being forgiven does not mean that God does not avenge Himself concerning our behavior.
God always will forgive sin that has been confessed and repented of. Always! For such is written in the unchanging Word.
But then God sends burning, fiery trials on the individual who has come to God for salvation. Judgment always begins with the members of the house of God, and it affects people equally whether they are alive on earth or live before God in the spirit realm. And the offender, even though he may have become a Christian, cannot expect people whom he has injured to rush to congratulate him. They have every right to remain wary, because Christians often revert to their old ways.
We think of King David. God immediately put away Davidís sin. But David suffered after that because of his adultery and murder. David nearly died under the hand of Absalom.
If you have been injured by someone, you can rest in the fact that no one gets away with anything, not even by becoming a Christian. If we would enter the Kingdom of God we must be proved worthy of the Kingdom of God. Being proved worthy of the Kingdom of God often entails years of suffering.
Therefore, among Godís churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring. All this is evidence that Godís judgment is right, and as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering. (II Thessalonians 1:4,5)
In fact, it is difficult for even the righteous to be saved. What then shall happen to the ungodly?
The Book of Psalms has a great deal to say about the suffering of the righteous due to the actions of wicked people. Because it is the Spirit of Christ speaking in the writers of the Psalms, particularly David, we become aware of how the Christian should respond to evil.
O God, whom I praise, do not remain silent, For wicked and deceitful men have opened their mouths against me; they have spoken against me with lying tongues. With words of hatred they surround me; they attack me without cause. (Psalms 109:103)
Christ speaks of His suffering. We must share in this sort of suffering.
I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, (Philippians 3:10)
All who live in a godly manner become the prey of the wicked.
Truth is nowhere to be found, and whoever shuns evil becomes a prey. The LORD looked and was displeased that there was no justice. (Isaiah 59:15)
If you desire to live in the resurrection Life of Jesus you are going to suffer the lies and hatred of the wicked. You will be attacked without cause.
But then what does the Spirit of Christ say, a thousand years before He was born in Bethlehem:
In return for my friendship they accuse me, but I am a man of prayer. (Psalms 109:4)
"I am a man of prayer." Christ was a man of prayer. This was how He coped successfully with the evil that assaulted Him at all times.
Are you and I people of prayer? We will have to be if we are to survive spiritually in the coming days and stand before Christ in victory.
What is noteworthy about the 109th Psalm is the cry for revenge. This Psalm is a prayer to the Father uttered by the Spirit of Christ. We usually do not think of the Lord Jesus in this light.
Speaking concerning Judas:
When he is tried, let him be found guilty, and may his prayers condemn him. May his days be few; may another take his place of leadership. May his children be fatherless and his wife a widow. May his children be wandering beggars; may they be driven from their ruined homes. (Psalms 109:7-10)
We Christians have been taught forgive! forgive! forgive! turn the other cheek! do not resist evil! overcome evil with good! And it is true that we absolutely must never attempt to overcome evil with some evil of our own manufacture.
But isnít it the case that many of us have been remiss in this area? Donít we tend to lash back at those who would harm us?
The reason is, we have been taught that justice never will be applied. We are to forgive and forget, we are informed. In the meanwhile the wicked go merrily on their way. We canít tolerate such injustice and so we strike back.
We need to fix firmly in our mind the prayer of Jesus concerning Judas. In fact, the Lord said concerning Judas, it would have been good for him had he never been born.
It probably is true that the prayer uttered a thousand years previously was answered in detail:
"Let him be found guilty."
"May his prayer condemn him."
"May his days be few."
"May another take his place of leadership." (Matthias)
"May his children be fatherless and his wife a widow."
"May his children be wandering beggars; may they be driven from their ruined homes."
We see, then, that the sweet, nice Jesus sought for justice. But He did not take matters into His own hands. He trusted in God to avenge Him.
Jesus forgave the Roman soldiers because they were behaving ignorantly. But Judas was another matter. He was one of the Twelve.
The Jews cried out: "Let His blood be on us and our children." That prayer has been answered through the centuries.
God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you (II Thessalonians 1:6)
There are people who are treated unjustly. They can find comfort in the seventy-third Psalm.
But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold. For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. (Psalms 73:2,3)
What bothers us the most, I suppose, is it appears the wicked are getting away with their foul deeds while the righteous are afflicted all the day long.
But then God shows us the end of the wicked, and we realize Divine justice eventually is administered to them.
When I tried to understand all this, it was oppressive to me Till I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny. Surely you place them on slippery ground; you cast them down to ruin. How suddenly are they destroyed, completely swept away by terrors! (Psalms 73:16-19)
When we go to God in prayer we see the end of the wicked. Then we do not envy them.
I think, at least for us in America, the future will hold dangers and pain we are not accustomed to. If we are to live victoriously in Christ we absolutely must cease fretting. If we are a member of the armed forces, then we may have a part in avenging our nation on those who have attacked her. But the rest of us must keep peace in our heart if we are to remain on our high place with Jesus.
Because of the fear sweeping our country, we now have an unprecedented opportunity to point people to Jesus; not just in a simplistic evangelistic pattern, although that is needed also. But I am thinking of bringing to American people, who are biblically illiterate for the most part, the promises that God presents in His Wordópromises concerning peace in the midst of turmoil.
However, if we are to bring mental health and peace to people we ourselves must be spiritually poised. We must have no fear of death whatever. We must be living in Christ each day. Then, and only then, will we be able to lift people above the fear of death and disease.
Does America have enemies? Yes, she does. Part of the anger of our enemies is justified. We have deluged their countries with the immorality of Hollywood. We have lived in abundance when multitudes are starving.
In Godís sight we are condemned because of the millions of innocent children who have been aborted. This is one sin that God will not forgive until America has been punished severely.
Therefore evil is overtaking us. Now our problem will be to cease from fretting because of the injustices that take place. Our enemies are not constrained by Christian guidelines. They think nothing of killing children and babies. They are liars. They are treacherous. They are perverse. They will stop at nothing, because their religion teaches, apparently, that whatever is done to an individual who is not of their religion is excusable on religious grounds.
They claim their religion teaches peace and brotherhood. Yet their actions put the lie to their claims of peace and brotherhood. In different areas of the world they have demonstrated their willingness to achieve their goals by murder and torture.
We Americans have brought this trouble on ourselves, to a great extent. We who are Christians must never permit hatred toward Arab people or any other race to enter us. We absolutely must seek God until in His goodness He brings multitudes of such people to Christ. We must overcome evil with good.
Have you noticed that while on the earth the Lord Jesus never spoke against the Roman government? The Lord always pointed the people toward the righteous, holy ways of God. Jesus knew the enemy was not Rome, it was sin.
So it is today that the enemy is not Iran, or Iraq, or Libya. The enemy is sin.
We Christians have a job on our hands. We need to bring Christ to American people, not in a cheap "take the four steps of salvation," but in an encounter in which the individual makes a living contact with Jesus. Perhaps the person was raised in a religious setting different from that to which we have been accustomed. We need to bring Him to the Person, Jesus, not to our religion. People are frightened and they need to understand God will help them if they will pray and seek His Face and His will.
Then we need to expand our thinking and realize the Arabs, the Chinese, the Jews, need Jesus. Again, not in a blithe "take the four steps of salvation" but in a real encounter with the Man. We need more miracle-working power so people can actually witness the resurrected Christ in action.
It has become trite, a platitude, to say the nations need Jesus. This need must become fresh and new to us. We must cease our fretting and bring the healing love of Christ to those who would attack us because we are Christians.
This is difficult but possible through Christ. It is not a case of just turning the other cheek; rather it is a positive overcoming of the evil with good, while we rest in the fact that the truly wicked, those who will never respond to the goodness of Christ, will be dealt with appropriately by the Lord. We do not have to worry about this; God will take care of the matter.
Then there is something much more difficult. That is for us Christians in America to forgive the wrongs that have been done to us personally in our church or in our family. To forgive people this close to us is impossible except as we are able to lay hold of the Virtue that is in the body and blood of Christ.
Sometimes great injustices occur between man and wife, leading to divorce proceedings which contain even more injustices.
The person treated unjustly needs to strive mightily with the Lord until perfect deliverance from malice is obtained. This can be done in the sure knowledge that if he or she refrains from avenging himself or herself, the Lord will repay in full. Even though the offending individual turns to the Lord and asks His forgiveness, the Lord will repay in full. He will forgive and help the offender change the pattern of his or her life; but the change will be brought about by many fires.
We must be proven worthy of the Kingdom of God!
None of us knows very much about himself, let alone about another individual. This is why it is imperative that we take every problem to Jesus for His judgment. Many times we ourselves are in the wrong, and we will be chastened appropriately. Therefore it is wise to act in a kindly, compassionate manner toward everyone, as much as possible.
We do not have to concern ourselves with "getting even," only with remaining on our high place with Christ in God.
So no matter what dangers and destructions face us in the future, we know the Lord Jesus sits as King of the flood. Not one actionónot one single actionówill escape His attention. If we will refrain from fretting and anger, and live in peace with everyone to the best of our ability, we will abide in His Person and will. Who is he who will harm us if we are a follower of that which is good?
But if someone does slander us or set out to harm us in some manner, we are to go to the Lord until we are assured He had heard us. He will enable us to forgive and to keep our peace.
No one ever at any time can take our peace from us if we keep on looking to the Lord.
If we will do this, then all injustices we suffer will be remedied in Godís time and manner. In that hour we no longer will be envious of the wicked, for their end will be seen to be not enviable.
The wicked plot against the righteous and gnash their teeth at them; But the Lord laughs at the wicked, for he knows their day is coming. (Psalms 37:12,13)
Let us laugh with God and cease fretting. If we will do this, we will be singing and dancing for joy in the heights of Zion when the wicked are suffering the flames of Divine judgment.