18 Servants, be submissive to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and gentle, but also to those who areunreasonable. 19 For this finds favor, if for the sake of conscience toward God a person bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly. 20 For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this findsfavor with God.
When I read this passage, the first word that came to mind was, “why?” I read it again and the result was the same. As I read it the third time, I noticed the first half of verse 20, For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? Peter asks and answers the question for us. What’s the point of returning unjust behavior with kindness and respect? Because it pleases God. Again my mind asks, “why?”
In the beatitudes, Jesus says, “10 “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
Have you ever heard of the term “longsuffering”? It is generally found in the King James version of the bible, but has since been translated into “patience”. Our language has taken away the true depth of this word, makrothumia, which stands for: patience, endurance, constancy, steadfastness, and perseverance. Quite frankly, “longsuffering” better portrays the core meaning: to suffer for a long time. In Ephesians 4, Paul talks about the purpose of longsuffering, “4 Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, 3 being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” It’s so that we preserve our unity of the Holy Spirit in the bond of peace! This is why it pleases God.
Our natural reaction to being “treated badly” is to retaliate somehow. This can be done in a plethora of ways, but what it boils down to is “getting even” or “evening the score”. God calls us to a different level. You see, when we give in to that sinful desire of taking revenge, we ignore “Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.” Revenge isn’t our job, love is. We are to love fully and unconditionally. It reminds me of End of the Spear, a true story about missionaries in Ecuador who swore not to retaliate with lethal force if they were attacked because the people they were trying to help were “not ready to die yet.”
I know (at least for myself) however it isn’t always easy to remember or even desire what God wants. This is one of those times we use God’s forgiveness as a ticket for sinfulness. “Well, God will forgive me, so I can ‘get mine’ just this once.” However, there is another element here we must focus on. It isn’t just about giving God the opportunity to get revenge instead of taking it into our own hands; it’s about remaining connected with Him. The end of my reference in Ephesians reminds us, “showing tolerance for one another in love, 3 being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” In letting go of revenge and vengefulness, we maintain our relationship with Christ! Our relationship with God is affected by our decisions to take revenge or not. This is one of those examples where God tells us something not because He wants to control us or because He wants things done a certain way. He says it because He knows what will happen as a result: separation from God. By letting anger and vengefulness settle in our hearts, we take a step away from God. This is why as Paul continues his letter to the Ephesians, he says (after what we just read), “26 Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and do not give the devil an opportunity.” He isn’t saying that our anger is a sin or that it gives the devil an opportunity, but that our sinfulness as a result of our anger gives the devil an opportunity, because it separates us from God. It puts a wedge between Him and us and He doesn’t want that for us or for Himself.
This is an opportunity to worship God. The bible was preserved for us to learn the characteristics of God so we can know how to love Him back. It’s not about understanding how we can get away with things, how we can get into heaven, or how to store treasures in heaven. It is about how God wants to be loved. Many of you have heard about “The 5 Love Languages,” a book about discovering how someone receives love so you can make them feel the love you are trying to express. The bible is a book that reveals to us God’s love language.
How will you choose to love Him in regards to vengeance?