The Big Payback
Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. – 1 Peter 3:9 (NLT)
I’ll admit it. I like rocking to James Brown’s mega hit, “The Payback.” The beat is compelling, the rhythm is electrifying, and the lyrics speak to a certain desire for self-vindication that’s really hard to deny.
No one wants to be a doormat. The “eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth” mantra carries a definite appeal for most of us. Those who get back and get even with their haters are almost always applauded and admired.
Yet the gospel keeps trying to tell us that there is no victory in being vindictive.
As a disciple of Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr. reminded us, “If we do an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, we will be a blind and toothless nation.”
As individually gratifying as revenge may be, over and over again, it has proven to be the kryptonite of human community.
Yielding the right of way to reckless drivers may appear to be passive, but it’s an aggressive step toward saving lives on our streets and highways.
Working to ensure viable opportunities for young delinquents who plunder and assault may seem to be just another “liberal excess,” but it opens countless doors of transition from law-breaking criminal to tax-paying citizen.
Collecting garbage strewn carelessly by others and turning it into compost for community gardens may not win the support of those who insist on making everyone do their fair share, but in the meantime, it works wonders in replacing blight with beauty.
The next time we are tempted to strike back in defense of our own egos, let’s make a strike for community uplift instead.
Lord, we are the recipients of unmerited favor. Make us your blessing to all the undeserved. Amen.
Kenneth L. Samuel is Pastor of Victory for the World Church, Stone Mountain, Georgia.