It seems like the world today has developed a fixation with sticking up for itself, an You can’t treat me that way! I’ll show you! You don’t know who you’re messing with! attitude. It’s gone so far that the general consensus is that if you’ve ever been taken advantage of, it must be because you have some kind of personal problem. If you don’t fight for your rights, you must be weak. You must be stupid.
My kids have come to the age now where they only want what somebody else has. If my daughter is having fun with something, my son suddenly decides that he must have it. The only thing to do is sweep in and seize that item immediately. It goes both ways. Naturally, whoever had it first has the right to that book, or toy, or whatever. And naturally, they usually put up a fight. But what happens to that book or toy in the ensuing struggle? They both pull on an end until it breaks.
To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded? 1 Corinthians 6:7
Yet, what would have happened if the victim had simply let go? Worst case scenario: the aggressor would get what he wanted, play with it for a time, and then put it down to go do something else. Much more likely, the victim would come to one of us parents and plead for justice. And we the parents would give it to them. But that’s not how things usually go.
And as adults, we are rarely any better. We stare down people who cut us off on the road. We guard our place in line at the grocery store. We throw parties at news of the death of our enemies. We stake out our half of the desk. In all this, what have we become? Jerks.
In our passionate defense of our rights, how often we blur the line of victim and aggressor. I remember, long ago, my brother and I were taking karate lessons together. He was trying to learn a new throw, and I was the practice dummy. Such is life. Part of the throw required him to sweep his leg in front of mine. What wasn’t part of the throw was me getting repeatedly kicked in the shins. He was doing it wrong, and I tried to correct him. And I kept getting kicked in the shins. I warned him, and it still didn’t stop. Finally, I had enough. He kicked me in the shins, I kneed him in the back, tossed him on the ground in a reverse, and stood their gloating.
Was I right? Even the instructor thought so. But what did I accomplish? I created a schism between my brother and me. He was so offended that he wouldn’t talk to me. He felt that I could have seriously hurt him, which was true. He said that he couldn’t trust me. Not long after, he quit taking lessons completely.
Beloved, never avenge yourself, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Romans 12:19-21
And such is usually the case when we insist on sticking up for ourselves. You can’t fight back without fighting. The stakes get higher. And all the sudden you’re pulling a gun at the bowling alley because somebody’s toe crossed the line. No, you’re no wrong. But you’re still a jerk.
So, what am I saying? That we should just roll over? Let people walk all over us? Take advantage of us? Are we all to become passivists? No. I’m not saying that. But allow me to finish with what Jesus says about it, and that can be the end of the matter.
You have heard that it was said, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” But I say to you, do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Matthew 5:38-41