When people hurt us the natural response is payback. By nature we gravitate to the “eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth” approach to people and pain. Jesus taught a different way of thinking and behaving. He commanded His followers to forgive, to turn the other cheek and to go the second mile in relationships.
Following Jesus’ relational instructions goes beyond a refusal to outwardly seek personal revenge. It includes the right inner attitude toward folks we consider our enemies. While we may refrain from retaliation against them, we may also be tempted to rejoice when someone else does so. Hearing reports of trouble, heartache and difficulties in the lives of a nemesis can make us smile on the inside, glad that they are finally “getting their due.”
Paul the apostle reminded us that the God-kind of love doesn’t respond this way. Real love “doesn’t delight in evil.” (See 1 Corinthians 13:6). Love isn’t happy when a foe faces problems. It doesn’t rejoice when someone who seems to have advantages, and perhaps even flaunts their advantages over us, suffers a downturn or setback. Love goes beyond the avoidance of payback. It includes an attitude of blessing toward people who have hurt us, or people who are intent on targeting us.
None of this is easy, but it’s powerful. When we walk in this kind of love it keeps our heart clean. It allows us to become good examples to others. It protects us against the poison of hatred. It also moves us out of the way so God can effectively do His work in the lives of our enemies.
Make the decision to not only avoid personal revenge against your foes, also avoid rejoicing in their pain, even when it comes through the actions of others.