There is one line in Proverbs 24 that caught my attention. Verse 29 says, “Do not say, “I’ll do to them as they have done to me; I’ll pay them back for what they did”. As I talked about in my sermon last Sunday, one of the keys to living well in 2021 is to remember that in a culture of anger and cynicism, we live as people of grace and forgiveness. If you missed the sermon on Sunday, you can watch it here. You know, the more I thought about this verse, the more I thought about Jesus. Like he usually does, Jesus takes a teaching that is excellent and he makes it even better! At the end of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 7:12), Jesus is talking about how to deal with other people and he tells us, “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also for them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.”
This is absolutely fascinating to me. While the Proverbs tell us that the way of vengeance is not the way of God, Jesus takes it one step further. Not only does he tell us what to avoid (Do not say…), more importantly he gives us guidance for how we can move forward in a positive direction. As Jesus people, not only are we to avoid retribution, we are told to actively seek the good for other human beings that are created in the image of God.
Friends, that is a hard word to hear! A lot of people think that pastors have it all figured out, but I have to be honest and tell you that we don’t. Seriously, there are still a few people (not many) that just get under my skin. You know as well as I do, that some people are just plain mean! They are mean to their friends, their families, and, yes, even a pastor. While it is easy for me to avoid returning their cynicism with my own anger, it is something completely different to wish them well. Yet, that is exactly what Jesus asks of us as his followers.
Who is it in your life that just gets under your skin? The challenge today is two-fold. First, avoid treating them with disdain or anger. You will be glad that you did, I promise. Second, not only avoid anger toward other people, but treat them with patience, grace, and kindness. A hard word to hear, but a good one to be sure.
Grace and Peace,