Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. 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 God›s wrath, for it is written: «It is mine to avenge; I will repay,» says the Lord. – Romans 12:14-19
What a wonderful season this is to express our thanks for our friends, family, and fellowships. It seems we live all year long in America in preparation for the days between Thanksgiving and Christmas. But, we are bitten this season with the cold, violent acts of violence on college campuses, struggling communities, and our ears are almost numb from listening to stories from around our country about unarmed people being shot. The noise is still loud from Ferguson, Mo., from the actions of the local police officer who shot an unarmed young man, and the omnipresent noise of the community searching for answers, solutions, and appropriate responses to violence.
Some would advocate that in instances where people have been wronged that revenge and retaliation are the appropriate answers. It’s tit for tat. It’s settling the score that no one wins or everybody loses. That response seems natural when considered by those who have little or no faith in a God of justice. For some, the use of violence is justified when the victim has suffered violence. However, when we consider what Jesus would do, or how he taught His disciples to respond to issues of physical confrontation and immoral conduct, He was a nonconformist. He did not act or react like the majority.
In each of our eyes we’ve been wronged by so many that to get even would be such sweet satisfaction. But where would you start and stop when considering others who have wronged you? The master poet, Robert Frost, said “… If one by one we counted people out for the least sin, it wouldn’t take us long to get so we had no one left to live with. For to be social is to be forgiving.”
The beloved apostle Paul helps us with his writings to the Romans when he urges fellow Christians to always “check” their attitudes. First, our attitude toward God deserves attention; to make sure we are serving Him as we should. Our attitude for good deserves attention; that Christians ought to ever be mindful of their treatment of others. That love, patience, prayer, sympathy, and humility make up the foundation for our conduct. And finally, that our attitude toward government is correct in that Christians are submissive to laws, and that authority is respected.
It is important to remember that violence is never a tool to be used by the moral. One of Mahatma Gandhi’s most famous quotes is “There are many causes I would die for. There is not a single cause I would kill for.” Dr. Martin Luther King said, “I am convinced that if we succumb to the temptation to use violence in our struggle for freedom, unborn generations will be the recipients of a long and desolate night of bitterness, and our chief legacy to them will be a never-ending reign of chaos.”
We have the ability to walk as family, in fellowship, while forgiving ourselves and others, and remaining faithful. We have the ability to be peaceful, patient, positive, and pleasant at the same time.
No, we are not overjoyed when evil prevails, when victims are terrorized, when innocence is betrayed, when children are negatively affected, or when communities are disenfranchised. But when bitterness bites, love and forgiveness always neutralizes the hurt.
This is the season to love, forgive, and seek wisdom from the Lord on how we constructively eliminate evil systems and immoral behavior.
Pray: Lord, I thank you for the opportunity to pursue peace amidst violence and upheaval. Help me to actively paralyze hatred and release love by my words and actions. In Jesus’ name …Amen!
Dr. Walter T. Richardson is pastor-emeritus of Sweet Home Missionary Baptist Church in South Miami-Dade County and chairman of the Miami-Dade Community Relations Board. He may be contacted at wtrichardson@Bellsouth.net. Website: WTRMinistries.com