I’m sure the reader can identify with the following scenario: You’ve found yourself on the receiving end of an unjust act and the person who commits the injustice lashes out at you with utmost fury, as if you were the one who committed the atrocity. It happens in traffic, at work and many other places where human interaction occurs.
Now, tell me if your response has been as follows: You react with equal intensity by informing the person who has aggrieved you the kind of morbid death they will encounter, mention how horrendous their mother is and consider paying “an eye for an eye” or worse.
Admittedly and to my shame, I’ve found succumbed to such a reaction more than once. Surely, some holier-than-thous will wag their finger in disgust and publicly rebuke me for doing so. Yet, honesty must be a part of the set of virtues displayed by Christians, not the superficial external piety which leads many to castigate other Christians for shortcomings they themselves have suffered from. Also, I do not seek to present myself as perfect or as being humbler than the rest by my admission. I am only attempting to make an important point, that of refusing to become absorbed by the modern age of barbarism.
Please understand that when I use the term “barbarism”, I not only allude to Islamic terrorism and repression, gang-related violence, abortion, bloody tribal disputes and the like. These are the practices we tend to default to in our minds when the word is pronounced or written. What I am pointing to particularly in this commentary are behaviors and mindsets which are considered insignificant by this secular culture, but when studied carefully lead men to consider and treat others like brute beasts instead of men.
Think of acts like children addressing their parents in a disrespectful manner, adolescents calling each other “bitches”, men and women who value others only for the sexual pleasure they can extract from them, intellectualists and the wealthy who look down on others who do not have the same titles or pedigree to their names, even when two strangers do not have the decency to greet each other with an amicable “Good morning”. These and other similar actions are the barbarism I speak of.
Unfortunately, many of us have allowed ourselves to be partially influenced by this cold, callous and brutal ambiance. The reader knows the sentiment: “If this is the treatment I am to receive, then I’ll return it tenfold.” (I have been guilty of this as well.) If one thinks on what we’ve allowed to happen, we’ve become participants in what Christ Himself classified as the love of many waxing cold because lawlessness would abound. (Matthew 24:9-11)
Please note that I am not saying that righteous anger has no space within Christian character. Neither am I claiming that one shouldn’t defend oneself when confronting an unjust person or situation. In fact, all the opposite is true. (Ephesians 4:26, Proverbs 21:15) The essential point of this piece is to impress upon the reader the necessity and importance of disallowing the world and its malice to divert our walk towards Christlikeness.
The Bible sends this message in many different ways. Jesus commands that we love our enemy, turn the cheek and walk the extra mile. (Matthew 5:38-48) Paul tells us to put away all malice (Ephesians 4:31) and to refuse to conform to this evil age. (Romans 12:1-2) Furthermore, the apostle states that we shouldn’t seek to avenge ourselves, but to give space to wrath and allow for God to repay. (Romans 12:19)
Trust me, as I write this I struggle in my own mind as to implementing it. Our first instinct is to allow the flesh to take over and use it as a means to respond forcefully to any situation that may develop. However, as noted before, the danger in walking in such a manner is that we may directly participate in the deteriorating lawlessness evident in our age.
If we wish to please our glorious Lord, reap eternal rewards and fight against the increasing moral desensitization, we must reflect the attitude and walk of our Savior whilst on our pilgrimage.
“A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Proverbs 15:1
“For as the churning of milk produces butter, and wringing the nose produces blood, so the forcing of wrath produces strife.” Proverbs 30:33
“If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.” Romans 12:18