Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Nonretaliation as Faithfulness

Over the past week, I’ve been confronted with my lack of trust in God for all my life. One way this stood out to me was in my kneejerk reaction to defend myself in a discussion with another person. When my position was denigrated, I immediately and instinctively retaliated.

Later, as I was reading Psalm 23, the very first verse spoke to me. In the New Living Translation it says: The Lord is my Shepherd; I have all that I need. It dawned on me that if I would allow God to be my Shepherd, I would not need to defend myself or justify my position or explain my behavior, for God is all that I need. God will guide me if I will stop trying to take matters into my own hands and instead trust God for everything.

In a nation where attacking others verbally, if not physically, seems to be part and parcel of our culture, nonretaliation is certainly an anomaly. When much of our entertainment is found in shows where people insult others, yell at others or discredit others, how would it look if those efforts were met with a gentle response or silence? How long could one person verbally berate another if the recipient of the abuse simply did not respond? We see examples of it in our country, though they are few and far between. The Amish community whose children were gunned down while at school, the nonviolent protests during the Civil Rights Movement, Jesus’ silence before his accusers.

If God is my Shepherd, then I am God’s sheep. And that makes me think of another passage that speaks of nonretaliation and sheep.  Isaiah 53:6-7 says:

All of us, like sheep, have strayed away.
      We have left God’s paths to follow our own.
   Yet the Lord laid on him
      the sins of us all.
He was oppressed and treated harshly,
      yet he never said a word.
   He was led like a lamb to the slaughter.
      And as a sheep is silent before the shearers,
      he did not open his mouth.

It is not easy to remain silent when attacked. But what would it do to our communities, not just our Christian communities, but our cities and states and countries if we could embrace the example of Jesus and trust God for our lives instead of retaliating against others?

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