Walk away from the evil things in the world—just leave them behind, and do what is right, and always seek peace and pursue it. 1 Peter 3:11
Quoting Psalm 34, Peter wrote this advice to the early scattered Church. It strikes me as both humorous and ironic that the hot head Peter–who cut a guy’s ear off— preaches to “do what’s right and always seek peace…”. I guess Peter learned throughout his life to practice what he preached. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I get tired of always striving to do what’s right and always seeking and pursuing peace. Sometimes, in my heart, I want war. Like Jo in Little Women, “I crave violence” (not really–but you get it). Sometimes, I’m so hurt or angry or disillusioned that I just want to tell somebody off or be a hot head like Peter and draw my proverbial sword. But just as I get ready to take my best shot, verses like the one above shoot through my mind and heart and I’m stopped in my tracks.
We’re wired to defend ourselves aren’t we? It’s our instinct to protect ourselves and our loved ones. We don’t want to wait for God’s salvation or His vindication. As moms, wives, sisters and friends we want to protect and shield the ones we love. And we certainly want to defend ourselves or at the very least, be understood. But I learned years ago during an especially difficult bout with depression, that we have to be willing to be misunderstood. We can’t possibly explain to everyone our reasons or rationale behind every decision and even if we could, would it matter? Would simply explaining ourselves mean that people then understood us? No, we could expend copious amounts of precious energy explaining our lives and decisions to anyone and everyone who would listen and we would still feel misunderstood on some level. But I digress…back to the anger issue…
In the book Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust by Immaculeé Ilibagiza, she shares her personal faith journey during the genocide of 1994. Her story is gripping both for the real drama played out in her life, but also for the way she dealt with the people who murdered her family and ripped her homeland apart. One passage in particular struck me:
I knew that my heart and mind would always be tempted to feel anger–to find blame and hate. But I resolved that when the negative feelings came upon me, I wouldn’t wait for them to grow or fester. I would always turn immediately to the Source of all true power: I would turn to God and let His love and forgiveness protect and save me.
“I would turn to God and let His love and forgiveness protect and save me.” She lived Peter’s words. She sought peace and pursued it even when it the world would have given her permission to vindicate. I found her life and example inspiring; I want to live Peter’s words as well as these from Paul:
Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically. Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality.
Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all!
Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.
Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say,
“I will take revenge;
I will pay them back,”
says the Lord.
“If your enemies are hungry, feed them.
If they are thirsty, give them something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap
burning coals of shame on their heads.”
Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good. ~Romans 12
I don’t know what pains you today. I don’t know what anger or bitterness or sadness you carry. I don’t know who hurt you or your loved one. I know my own hurts. I know my own seeds of pain, buried deep in my heart. I know the people who’ve caused pain–the ones I don’t want to love or seek peace with. But I know the only way to live a full life of mercy, grace and love is to forgive and forgive and forgive. And I know the only way for a peaceful heart is to love others as I love myself and trust God for vindication–if He deems it necessary. I pray for a forgiving and peaceful heart for you as well, friend. Whatever struggles you’re in the midst of, I pray God’s peace to rule your heart.