A Christ-Like Relationship to Personal Attacks and Injustice, Part 2
From the series Keeping Love Alive - Volume 4
When you feel dismissed, neglected, or insulted by your spouse, what do you do? Pout? Go silent? Retaliate? In this program, Chip’s gonna help us respond to hurt and pain in a biblical way by teaching from Romans chapter 12. Discover how your marriage can survive, heal and move forward when we wound one another.
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About this series
Keeping Love Alive - Volume 4
Four Relationships Great Marriages Have in Common
We’ve all heard or read news stories that celebrate couples who’ve been married for 5, 6, or even 7 decades. So how did they stay together that long? What’s their secret? And better yet… how can we build those types of lasting bonds? Through the 4th volume of our Keeping Love Alive series, Chip’s identifying 4 relationships great marriages have in common. Learn why these connections are critical to every relationship and how you and your spouse can better prioritize them in your marriage - starting today.More from this series
“Bless those who persecute; bless and curse not.” By the way, the word curse means to desire for someone to be lost eternally. And bless is the desire for them to not only be saved, but to experience God’s favor. Do you realize how radical this is? Can you imagine being in the first century and your whole life you have been taught, “Love your neighbor; hate your enemy.” And then this rabbi comes and starts, you know, like, really?
And then He says, “Rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation.” In context, He is still talking about how you treat people who are persecuting you or who are evil.
I’ve got stories from here down my elbow of people who have taken this passage that literally and acted in those ways and seen the most dramatic breakthroughs, because it’s how the kingdom works.
And then the second major command, that’s verses 14 to 16. Verse 17, you might underline the first word, “Never, never pay back evil for evil to anyone.” And I might add, even to the one we are married to.
“Respect what is right in the sight of all men,” and this is one of the keys, especially in our marital relationships. The word, this translation is “respect.” The word is consider. Take into account. It’s sort of a stepping back and you might write this down, this has helped me. Everybody behaves in a way that makes sense to them. It’s kind of examining things and realizing: He just said this or he wounded me again or there was this action.
And not excusing any of it, but it’s like stepping back and going, “I can see at least how maybe in view of her background or his background and the circumstance and the wounds they have, how this could have happened and how I received it.”
“Never pay back evil for evil to anyone, respect what is right in the sight of all people.” The second “never” you might underline. “Never take your own revenge,” that’s paying back, “beloved, but” – why? “leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine.’” Basically, “That’s My job.” “‘I will repay,’ says the Lord. But if your enemy is hungry, feed him.” What? “If he is thirsty, give him a drink.” Why? “For in doing so you will heap burning coals on his head.”
By the way, I know some of you are thinking, “Great! You know, it’s like a grenade right in their brain! Finally, we are getting someplace.” I’m going to explain what that means in just a minute.
And then the final command is: “Do not be overcome with evil, but overcome evil with good.” And this is a practice.
I was a Christian about two and a half years, growing in Christ in college. We had a guy on our team who probably should have been playing Division I. We were a school that gave scholarships, but we were kind of below the Division I. And he had been through Vietnam. He had scars here and scars here. He had a vertical of about forty-four inches and he was six-seven, six-eight. I mean, Jerry, elbows over the rim. But he was also a drug dealer, he had spent some time in prison. And between the drugs and the war, had really messed up with his brain and his nervous system.
So, he’s on our team and Jerry, I don’t know his background, all I can tell you is he hated Christians. And so, he found out I was a Christian. And he was very smart, very articulate, and he was an amazing artist. And he came as the reformed drug addict. And so, Jerry’s joy was to mess with me and one day I was walking to my room, and the RA was across the hall. And the door was just open a little and everybody was smoking dope and back then it was illegal. And smoke is coming out.
And I just glance and Jerry glanced and I got to my room and when I got to my room, I felt a hand behind me. And I turned around and Jerry is about six-eight and he grabbed underneath my neck and he lifted me off the ground. And, see, if he was caught doing drugs, it was back to prison. And he brought me up here and he looked at me and he said, “you say anything to anyone, by God, I will kill you. And I have killed a lot of people already. One more wouldn’t matter.”
To say I was terrified, and I don’t know, maybe some of you have had this. I didn’t know the human heart could be so evil. I’m ashamed to say that. I had anger fantasies. I had rage inside my heart.
So, it’s not going well and there is a method to this story. But I’m, I can’t sleep at night and now I don’t know what it’s like when you really get full-blown ulcers but, I mean, it’s my stomach, my heart, it’s…and I’m scared. And I’m angry. And I can’t pray. And there was a leader of our, it was a campus ministry and I said, “What do I do?” He goes, “You really want help?” I said, “Yeah.” He said, “I’ll tell you how God will intervene and change all this.” I said, “Great.” You know what he did? He read Romans chapter 12, verses 14 to 21.
He said, “Chip, the only freedom is for you to bless him and don’t take your revenge. You don’t have to feel it. Second, you need to pray for him every day.” “Oh, I’ve been praying.” “Not that the earth would swallow him up. You need to pray that God would give him favor in basketball, that God would cause his art to go well, that God would bless his life.” I want to kill him. I don’t want to bless his life. He goes, “Chip, obedience has nothing to do with your emotions. Choose to do it.”
I share this story because some of you, what I just shared and all that stuff, in your brains you’re thinking, There is no way in…I’m going to do that with my wife or some people that hurt me. I’m not going there. And I’ll tell you what, I, you know, after practice everyone laid their stuff down, I would take Jerry’s stuff, I’d lay a towel there and I would put his stuff away.
Always on road trips, it was like I would get his bag before he could say anything and I would put it on the bus for him. “What in the…what are you doing?” He always called me Chee-up. And then at the meal we would always have a training table meal and it would be like, “Get me this, get me that, get me that.” Just always humiliating. And so, instead, it was like, “Hey, Jerry, can I get you…?
I did it for a month and did it for two months and did it for three months. And I prayed for him every day. And he didn’t change. But I did. Bitterness kind of went out of my soul. I didn’t even know it, but other guys watching, a couple guys on the team came to Christ. We got to the very end of the year and the tournament and he was really big and he would always put his hand on me like this. “Chee-up.”
And he said, “There are only two people on this whole team I respect. They are all a bunch of phonies; they are posers. I’m evil and if there’s a hell, I’m going there.” He said, “The other person is - you. I don’t believe a thing that you believe about all this Jesus- But you’re no fun. I’ve lost all joy in trying to put you down. And I would never want to be a Christian. But if I ever did, I’d want to be one like you.”
Bless those who persecute you. Bless and curse not. Never take your own revenge. Leave room for the wrath of God. If your enemy is hungry, feed him. If your enemy is thirsty, give him a drink.
Question: Is there someone you need to forgive, bless, or seek reconciliation? Certainly, in our context, we are asking about our mate, but there may be some other people.
What do you need to believe about God’s character to help you overcome evil with good? You know what you need to believe? He’s sovereign. He’s in control. He orchestrates things. Joseph, who was betrayed by His brothers; Joseph, who was sold into slavery; Joseph who ends up in prison and then forgotten – he’s got a ten-year journey of bad, bad, bad, bad, unfair, unfair, unfair, unfair. But there’s a little line in Joseph’s life that says, “The Lord was with Joseph.” And we can’t find him whining or complaining.
And when he gets to the end of his life and his father dies and his brothers think, Now the other shoe is going to drop. He’s the most powerful man in Egypt except Pharaoh. All of the family is here. He’ll probably kill all of us.
Joseph says, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God,” are you ready for this? “meant it…” that means God had a part. When people do evil things against you, He’s got the bigger play. God meant it for good to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.”
God got me in Egypt, then He got me in prison, then He got me connected with the baker and the other guy, then got me promoted, and then, by the way, then God got me a wife and some sons and He gave me wisdom. And you know what? Yeah, you meant it for evil. You have to believe that.
Romans 8:28 we often quote but we forget 29. “And we know that in,” circle, “all things.” A tough marriage, wounds, struggles, anger, infidelity, alcoholism, deployments, “in all things God works for the good,” but not for everyone. “…for those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. For those God foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.” God will use every adversity and His agenda is not that your life is smooth. His agenda is to make you like Jesus. And He will use the betrayal, the injustice, the difficulties, all the things that you go through if you stay in the game.
And by that I mean you don’t get bitter. By that I mean it’s like, “I don’t get it, this isn’t fair, emotionally I’m really angry, I’m super ticked off, it shouldn’t be this way, blah, blah, blah, blah. And I’m going to keep living Your way instead of the world’s way. And it’s so counterintuitive. And people will think I’m a fool.”
The second thing you have to believe about God is His mercy. Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or my sister who sins against me?” Or my wife? Or my husband? “Up to seven times?”
And Peter is going, like, “Wow, like, I must be a superstar to go up to seven.” Jesus answered, “I tell you not seven times, but seventy-seven times. Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servant,” and I want you to read something. This is the most profound parable in all of Scripture, because here’s what God is asking you to do. You have to forgive your mate. You have to forgive if it was your parents. You have to forgive whoever did you in. You – literally, “Dear God, will You bring to mind anyone that I need to forgive? That I harbor ill or resentment?”
And it might be from ten years, twenty years, or last week. And forgiveness is an act of the will. I choose to release them – point in time – and then forgiveness is a process. Forgiving. You forgive and then you – forgiving is a process. And the process is you bless them. If there’s any way to do something nice or kind to them, even if it has to be anonymous. And then you pray for them.
I was betrayed by a staff member; I prayed for him every year for two years. I never took the Lord’s Supper where I didn’t ask God to bless his life. Now, my early prayers were, “God, will You show him where he’s wrong? Would you cause his life to cave in and repent and come back and tell me he’s sorry for all the terrible things he did?” That never happened. But I can tell you, after two years of praying for him and blessing him and doing good things, I heard something good about him and I was shocked. My heart rejoiced. I could actually be happy that something good happened to him.
Forgive – point in time. Forgiving – a journey. Forgiven – when you can come to the point where, you know what? Why would you ever feel that? Jesus said, “For this reason the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his slaves.”
I’m in Matthew 18, you can see it in your notes. “And when he had begun to settle them, one owed him ten thousand talents, was brought to him. But since he didn’t have the means to repay, his master commanded that he be sold along with his wife and his children. So, the slave fell to the ground, prostrated himself before him saying, ‘Have patience with me and I will pay you everything.’ And the master of the slave felt compassion,” empathy, “and he released him and he forgave him the debt.” You don’t have to pay it! It’s done. Jesus wants them to understand it would be impossible for anyone to repay that master.
“But he went out and found one of his own slaves who owed him a hundred denarii and he seized him and he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay back what you owe me.’ So, his fellow slave fell to the ground and began to plead with him saying, ‘Have patience with me and I will repay you.’ But he was unwilling and he went and threw him into prison until he would pay him back what was owed. So, when his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were deeply grieved and came and reported to their master all that had happened. And then summoning him, his master said to him, ‘You wicked slave. I forgave you all that debt, because you pleaded with me. Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave in the same way that I had mercy on you?’”
Now, listen to Jesus, meek and mild. “And his master, moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he would repay him all that was owed. My heavenly Father will also do the same to you if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart.”
Some of us pray the Lord’s Prayer fairly regularly. “Father, forgive us our sins…” It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what that means. “Father, forgive us our sins as we forgive those…”
Resentment, bitterness, and unforgiveness are like cancers that eat away at our soul and destroy our love. We must forgive our mates as Jesus has forgiven us.
Forgiveness does not mean that the consequences of behavior or reconciliation or things don’t need to have a structure and a plan to repair things. It doesn’t mean that you don’t need to go get help, see a counselor, get on a good path, all the rest. But you don’t go from square one until you give to your mate what Jesus has given to you.
And here’s the deal. We all want justice for the other person, but we all want mercy from God, right? I don’t want justice. God, forgive me! And He does! And you just, here’s the moment. You have this equation. And it’s this simple. This is what You did for me. Unless I want to get from You what I want them to get from me, then I don’t deserve to have Your mercy. And this isn’t like the first time we have come on this issue and many others. I have to give what You have given to me. And it was only that logic that allowed me to forgive.