Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Let the Retaliation Stop
A wife screams and scratches at her husband, and the husband belligerently yells back and raises his hand like he would slap her. A teenager shouts, “I hate you! You never let me do anything!” Her mother bursts through the bedroom door and bellows her retort, “My whole day is ruined the minute you walk in that front door!” It happens in the home, on the road, at the work place, in school, on the church pew, in the check-out line, and at the neighborhood meeting. Anywhere that you have potential for conflict there is the potential for someone to return ugliness for ugliness. Responding to harsh words and abuse with more harsh words and abuse is the wrong response.
Martin Luther King tried to drive that point home in Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community. He wrote, “The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it…. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can do that.” He was right. You might temporarily subdue the yelling and abuse that others heap by topping what they are doing; but the bitterness will return soon. When the opportunity for retaliation arises, retaliation is likely to take place. Let the retaliation stop with you.
Jesus taught to turn the other cheek and pray for those who harm us. Peter used the Passion story to call us to refuse to return insult for insult. Paul instructed us to let the Lord take whatever vengeance might need to be taken, but we are to live at peace with everyone. He said to overcome evil with good.
Today, and this week, when your spouse or your teenager is harsh, respond with a kind word. When the maniac cuts you off as you are driving home, back off and let him have plenty of room. When someone lies about you to another, tell the truth gently, and don’t return the slander. Do these things because it is the best way to stop the descending spiral. Do these things because it reflects the kind of person you are and the Savior that you committed to imitate. That's Life at Work!

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