Focal Passages: Genesis 13:1-18; Romans 12:9-21; 15:1-6
Experience teaches that even godly people face conflict at
times, both with others and with world conditions. Regardless of the spectacles
we wear — optimistic or pessimistic — the world today does not give off a rosy
hue; instead, it appears to be submerged in smog we cannot see through, with
weight too heavy to bear.
But along comes our Scripture with Paul’s advice to church
members in Rome, and the smog
begins to clear. Paul suggests that, while we cannot avoid all circumstances,
we can control how we respond to them, and suddenly hope is renewed (Rom. 12:12).
Paul suggests that in dealing with conflict, love must be
genuine and not a form of role playing. Love has the capacity to connect us
with others as we “Rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep”
Long ago Chrysostom commented, “It requires more of a
Christian to rejoice with them that rejoice than to weep with them that weep.
For there is none so hard-hearted as not to weep with
someone in calamity; but the other requires a nobler soul, so as to keep from
envying, and also to feel pleasure with the person who is held in esteem.”
It is only when self is dead, and one’s life is controlled
by the Spirit, that a person can take as much joy in the success of others as
in his own.
When we’re wronged by others, there are three steps in the
ladder of possible responses. One way is pathological — to repay good with
evil. A second way is natural — to return evil for evil and good for good. That
we can do in the flesh. The third way is to return good for evil, which is
Christian and pleasing to God.
Scripture forbids taking revenge. God said, “Vengeance
belongs to Me; I will repay” (Deut.32:35). He alone is qualified to judge
another. Besides, treating a person with kindness is the way to win his heart,
while stooping to vengeance indicates that one is evil.
Booker T. Washington said, “I will not allow any man to make
me lower myself by hating him.” We might add, “The way to destroy an enemy is
to make him a friend.” And Jack, my pastor husband, would say, “When love
doesn’t work, don’t try anything else.”