There are some true gems of wisdom hidden in the New Testament Epistles. Consider the portrait of Christ painted in 1 Peter 2:22-23: “Christ committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth. When they hurled insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to the one who judges justly.”
That alone is enough to cause me to honor Jesus Christ. His aversion to revenge, his example of grace in the face of severe criticism, and his forgiveness even for those who crucified him are at sharp antithesis to anything in our culture.
I am dismayed consistently at the vulgarity of language and spirit coming from leaders and models in our national life. I am discouraged over the very unchristlike sentiments and announcements even of many religious leaders. Christ’s way is needed more desperately than at any time I can recall, at the most basic level – in speech and attitude.
Tone matters. President Abraham Lincoln tried to steer us from revenge and set the tone of reconciliation at the end of the Civil War when he proclaimed, “With malice toward none, charity toward all.” President Ronald Reagan brought a new and hopeful tone with his “morning in America” that lifted the country from malaise and discouragement.
Thoughtful people all over the country are longing for a tone of reconciliation, not retaliation. What is good and life-giving in personal relationships is good for a whole nation of diverse people.
I long ago resolved never to respond to malicious critics and never to seek revenge or retaliation, not because I am some unusually good soul but because I am a follower of Christ. This has brought me the blessings of extraordinary friendships and a great peace within. Much suffering in this world comes from anger and from angry responses to things said or done.
Of all people, we who follow the strong yet gentle Christ must not let anger motivate us in anything but fighting injustice. When insulted, leave it alone, let it go. It is Christ’s way.
The Rev. Dr. Bill Coates is senior pastor at First Baptist Church in Gainesville. His column appears occassionally as part of the Minister's Message series. He can be reached at 770-534-7354 or firstname.lastname@example.org.