A Yahweh Sister reading with us wrote to ask about one of the study questions on page 95: "At what point are you free to retaliate?" She wanted to know, "Are we ever free to retaliate or can we hold the one we forgive accountable if he in turn chooses not to forgive?"
Girls, this is tough stuff! It seems so simple - be humble, be kind, trust God. It's seems like no-brainer Christianity. But it's really challenging stuff to apply.
I think someone could casually read through this book - skipping the study questions - and enjoy it for it's stories and girlfriendy style. It can be a quick, easy read. And they might conclude, "That was a nice overview of basic Christian principals."
Oh, but I believe it's so much more than a simple overview - I think the stuff in these chapters is where the rubber meets the road in our journey to become like Christ. It has been in my life. I can memorize the order of the books of the Bible. I can debate with you who wrote the book of Hebrews and whether or not Song of Solomon is a literal or allegorical story. But what really matters is how I love God and love others.
And how I handle my pride and ego.
So back to her question. The answer is at no point are we free to retaliate according to God's Word. But there's a difference between confronting in love and retaliating. There is a difference between holding someone accountable for their actions and retaliating against them. The challenge is to check your motives and make sure your "holding accountable" isn't really retaliation in disguise.
Retaliation is driven by the desire to hurt someone back. To get revenge, or get "even" as we call it. It's the, "I'll get you my, little pretty, and your little dog too!" sentiment. That is different than confronting someone in love about their sin with the hopes of restoring them. Or, letting someone know that they've hurt you repeatedly, and you've forgiven them, but you feel the need to distance yourself some in this relationship but will continue to pray for them.
In the movies we see some guy cheating on his girl repeatedly while telling her she's the only one he is dating. We get mad for her. We want him to be punished. Finally, she finds out about it and goes to the other girl's house. Finding his car out front when he is supposedly at work, she slashes all four tires. And we stop eating popcorn long enough to cheer for her. Yeah, that serves him right! He had that coming. That'll teach him! I know, I cheer too.
It makes for a satisfying plot line - or a hit song for Carrie Underwood - but really, it's no example we should follow. We're to choose door #3, take it to Christ, and leave the "teaching" to Him. Oh, and resolve to pick a better boyfriend next time. (wink)
We do not have to be doormats, but we do have to be righteous in all our dealings - even when we feel hurt. Not easy. Clear, but not simple. It takes restraint. This doesn't make us weak, but strong. And it makes Christ - our defender - pleased.
To read more on the topic of overlooking offsenses and little interpersonal slights, check out this post.
Tomorrow I'll put another link-up here so if you've written an INS blog post you can share it.