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Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good. Romans 12:21 (NLT)

Remember the game you played in Jr. High? A friend punches you, kicks you or plays a prank of some sort on you and yells, “Even”. Maybe this was more of a guy thing, but I remember it well. It usually started out relatively harmless. Sometimes it could escalate into a full-blown war. It may have started with an accidental push and usually you never knew who really started it. One thing you did know is that ‘Even’ never happened because you always had to get in the last act of (usually) playful violence.

There is, deep within us, the desire to win, to stand for ourselves, to be victorious. It may be buried under years of physical, emotional or sexual abuse. It still lies beneath the scars of our pain, but it’s there. It’s longing cries out to us. Its desire cloaks itself in anger, hopelessness, fear and worry. We use chemicals, lifestyle and other control issues to soothe its longing.

The fact of the matter is, we’ll never be victorious as long as we have the attitude of “It’s me against the world.” Until we realize we are nothing more than pawns in a cosmic, spiritual battle we’ll continue to try to win a battle we can never emerge from victorious.

The lifestyle of the Christ-follower is one of dichotomies. The war for our souls is no exception. The best way to ‘win’ is to ‘lose’. The best way to ‘be strong’, is to ‘be weak’. The best way to ‘get even’ is to ‘give in’. The best way to combat the evil in our lives is to do good. Evil acts will always conceive more evil. The only remedy is to allow the Holy Spirit of God enter into your life and develop his fruit in your soul. “God’s Spirit makes us loving, happy, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle, and self-controlled. There is no law against behaving in any of these ways” (Galatians 5:22-23CEV).

The Christian life is one of dichotomies. Society says, “Revenge is the best way to handle conflict”. God says, “Doing good in the face of evil destroys evil.” Society says lives by the adage, “I did it my way”. God says, “It’s my power working in you, not your power that accomplishes things.”

When faced with the desire to ‘get even’, remember you will accomplish much more by taking a step back and seeking God’s power and wisdom to know how you can best turn this evil into good; to show Christ-like character to those needing the freedom grace has to offer.

PRAYER: Father God, there are so many times when I’m mistreated, offended, ignored and blamed. During those times when I seek to get even give me the wisdom to follow your path and show Christ’s love in response to those who persecute me. Amen.

Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. Colossians 4:2

In the movie “Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” all the contestants of the contest are in competition for the grand prize of owning their own chocolate factory. What an awesome prize. As the troop tours the chocolate factory, ‘Willie’ gives them only one rule. Obey him. Follow the rules. Listen to him.

Sounds simple enough until you factor in greed and the human nature. Each of the children (except one) fails miserably because they want their own way. Their parents struggle because they have always granted every wish their ‘little boy’ or ‘little girl’ wanted. The end result was that they were all spoiled brats and completely unaware that other people may have feelings or rights.

We laugh at the story. We scoff at the parents that allow their children such power. We are amazed that parents who love their children would allow them to be so controlled by greed. So demanding of their own way. “Why if that were my child they’d realize they can’t have things the way they want all the time” we say self-righteously.

Before we are too hard on the parents in this movie we need to think about how we respond to God when our prayers aren’t answered in the way we’d like them to be answered. We pray. We pray earnestly. We pray for good things…from our perspective. And when they don’t get answered we react. Sometimes we react with anger. “God doesn’t love me” or “God is angry with me for my sin. I thought I was forgiven” or we may even doubt that God exists!

Part of the problem is that we need to look at prayer, and life, from God’s perspective. We tend to think of God as some sort of ‘Divine Santa Clause’ and the angels as being happy, goofy elves. The whole spirit world is intent on making us comfortable in this life.

But God’s desire for us is salvation and purity. Sometimes earthly comforts may accompany that and we may be blessed financially. Other times his path on earth may be scattered with potholes of uncertainly, illness and relational disaster. The goal of life isn’t earthly comfort but eternal blessing. Our heavenly Father will do whatever he can to bring that to fruition.

No parent would give their child everything they want. What if your child were to ask to play in the middle of the highway? What if your child were to ask for a good drink of rat poison? Would you allow that? Of course not! Even though the child would see no danger, you know better.

In the same way, your Heavenly Father knows better what you need, even if that means bringing some pain and uncertainty into your life. As you pray, pray with your eyes open to what will be best for eternity. God’s desire is for salvation, nothing more. Be thankful that even when God’s answers don’t give you what you are hoping for, he always gives us what is best for eternity.

PRAYER: Father God, I worship you today for your great and mighty love. I thank you that you know exactly what I need and will bless me according to my need and not always my want. I praise you that everything that happens in my life is a preparation for eternity. In Jesus name, Amen.

See that no one pays back evil for evil, but always try to do good to each other and to all people. 1 Thessalonians 5:15

‘I don’t get mad, I get even!’. We hear it said, or even say it all the time. Most of the time it’s meant in jest, but if we are honest, there are many times we get even when we’ve been hurt or offended. There are a variety of subtle and not-so-subtle ways of retaliation, but all have the same goal, to make sure the other person ‘pays’ for hurting us or crossing us.

Getting even is usually counter-productive. We are hurt by others so we hurt others in hopes of making our pain less. I’m not trying to minimize the pain of being attacked. Whether the attack is physical or emotional, the pain can be unbearable. Sometimes I think the emotional pain is worse because it leaves no visible bruises and we suffer alone.

It may be hard to admit it to ourselves, but many times our desire to ‘get even’ is a result of our own self-image. When we’re attacked, the enemy likes to whisper in our ear and tell us we are unworthy, unlovely, ugly, fat, stupid, weak and a whole list of other lies. The enemy loves to get us to think badly of ourselves so that we forget who we really are. We are children of the King!

Retaliation almost always leads to a negative spiral. You hurt me so I hurt you so you hurt me so I hurt you…and on and on. Many marriages and other relationships are destroyed because no one steps out of the circle.

When Christ-followers are involved in a negative spiral it shows the world that we are no different than they are. We talk of love and forgiveness but show none! In fact, sometimes the ‘evil sinners’ of the world are far kinder and forgiving than those of us who call ourselves Christians.

Paul writes to the church in Thessalonica and reminds them that retaliation (paying back evil for evil) should never be a part of the body of Christ. Rather, we are to do good to each other. This should be the defining mark of every church. People may not always agree with our stands on issues, but they should never question our love for each other and for them.

There’s an old Christian song that says “We are one in the Spirit….they will know we are Christians by our love’. If we are to impact our corner of the world for Jesus this should be our way of life. We will be hurt and offended. We will be attacked and misunderstood. We’ll be lied about. Our response should always be one of kindness even in situations where we have to separate us from our attacker because of the physical/emotional damage they have done to us.

Remember this. You are loved by God. He made you just as you are. If God had a chance to make you over again, He’d make you the same way that you are now! Let Him handle the crabby customer at work, the jerky driver on the interstate, the know-it-all gossip at your church. Rely on the Holy Spirit to empower you to show kindness and wisdom every time you are attacked. In this way, the world will know what it means to have the love of Jesus in our lives.

PRAYER: Father, I confess to you that it’s far easier for me to retaliate than to react with love, kindness and forgiveness. I’m ashamed to admit that I’m harder on my ‘Christian’ friends than I am on the ‘evil sinners’ I pray for each day. When someone hurts me, remind me that I’m yours. Empower me to remove myself from danger and rely on you for justice. Anoint my wounds with the healing oil of your love. If there is anyone to whom I should ask forgiveness please show them to me today. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

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February 2023
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