returning love for hate, not tit for tat

There is much contention and strife today. Politics is at the forefront of everything and for all practical purposes I would guess the religion of many when it comes right down to it, apart from perhaps something of a sincere faith in God which is confined to certain spheres. People don’t necessarily always take this and other things (let’s add sports, which while trivial in coomparison, still commands an allegiance and passion which can play right into this problem) personally, but quite often sooner or later it becomes personal.

Or let’s consider for a moment the ins and outs of life at a job. We work with people and people are often quite critical and dismissive of others, even of each other. There can be plenty going on which is based on misunderstanding or simply not being considerate and not putting a good construction on another. Of course wisdom is needed. There is no doubt that a good deal of stress can come from the workplace.

Whatever the source of the conflict we either perceive or are experiencing, in following Jesus we need to develop the mentality and attitude and practice of returning love for hate and refusing to return fire for fire, or “tit for tat.”  I don’t believe in passivity or in an impassioned existence. But the action and passion we must embrace is that of following our Lord in the way of the cross, while refusing to take the way of the world. Much is involved in that, not the least of which is praying psalm-like prayers to God, etc. Much wisdom is needed, the kind of wisdom spoken of in a passage which ought to be highlighted and underscored in today’s world– James 3.

First James talks at some length about the destructiveness of the tongue in relationships, how one’s entire life and life itself can suffer destruction because of it. What I’m referring to on this post is really played out in my culture in this arena. Arguably it can carry on to literally terrible things such as actual shootings and the taking of life. Where it is customarily played out is in the destructiveness that can result in the lives of others in job loss, or a drivenness which is either nonproductive, productive at a cost not worth it, or “successful” in a way that is not in accord with what is really good.

Then James follows up that picture of the destructive tongue, contrasting the way of wisdom, with an emphasis on that true wisdom, against the way of the false wisdom of the world. The result is peacemaking, which is hardly a shibboleth (considered outdated custom) or even imaginable in today’s culture. I’m afraid it is so little seen. One must get into the fight, and play to win by the standards set. But we in Jesus are called to something much different. To a wisdom from above, from heaven, not from an earthly, even demonic wisdom. It is either or, never and/both in any way, shape or form.

In the end, love must reign supreme, a love grounded in truth, ultimately in the Truth himself, Jesus. Played out in a life at peace with one’s self, because one is at peace with God through our Lord Jesus, and from that at peace with others, shown in even loving our enemies. We refuse to get caught up in the culture wars, even if we may speak something into them. Love becomes the goal and end, but a love which is joined to truth, but is also ever merciful, remembering, again in the words of James that “mercy triumphs over judgment.”

This is what is needed today, both in our lives in Jesus and for society at large. Society doesn’t need people who return tit for tat and are ready to go to war in some cultural or perhaps even more literal way. Even though the answer is steeped in a culture completely counter to the way of the world. We instead follow the one who is meek and lowly in heart. Not participating. Or participating in a completely different manner in the common fare of the world in the way of our Lord.

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