My cat is pretty funny … and vindictive! She insists on having the last ‘word.’ If she has just been scolded, she’ll likely hide behind a corner and lash out as the discipliner walks by. Or she may whelp a disapproving “meeooowwwuuuuuhhhh.” I’m not sure I want to know what she’s saying at that moment! Anyway, she reminds me that we’re often aggressive toward other people—even inside the church.
People who should know better gossip against others and retaliate in litigation (think about the Corinthians I wrote about last week!). They often throw hurtful speech or punches despite the order to be kind, patient, and loving. Vengeance flies even though we’re commanded to turn the other cheek to give reconciliation a chance and be quicker to listen than speak.
“This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.” (James 1:19-20)
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23)
“But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.” (Matthew 5:39)
These are some active ways we can be aggressive to God’s creation. There are others too.
My cat is aggressive in her retaliation. But sometimes, she’s passive in her attacks, withdrawing her affection or displaying ‘attitude’ in non-verbal or covert unkindness. We often do the same to each other. There’s the gossiper who will whisper unpleasantries or the ugly truth disguised in “Christian love.” I’ve heard these things spoken aloud in prayers to avoid the accusations of gossip. Some people, like my cat, will withhold their affections or stop helping in passive retaliation. And there’s the congregant who will selectively clap for one worship music artist while refraining when the person they dislike offers their gift. Aggressions like those I’ve mentioned are ungodly and hurtful, whether active or passive. So, who does have the right to be the aggressor?
Only God has the authority to issue vengeance, retribution, or judgment:
“For we know Him who said, ‘VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY.’ And again, ‘THE LORD WILL JUDGE HIS PEOPLE.’” (Hebrews 10:30)
“Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.” (Acts 17:30-31)
Whether victim or aggressor, some of you may be frustrated at what I’ve written. So, join me next week to explore healthy conflict resolution and dealing with anger.
Blessings and peace,
Dr. Ron Braley