Phyllis Beveridge Nissila
He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8, NIV)
In an Age of Rage
As the hostility of our era fattens on lawlessness and hatred it will become increasingly tempting to err on the side of vengeance.
Vengeance, however, is the Prince of the Power of the Air’s home field advantage and best left to God Who knows all Satan’s strategies–and his hiding places.
But it can be very hard to hold off, to quell the arguably righteous anger over a lot of what’s going on, and such a response calls forth all the courage and stamina a believer can muster given what Jesus warned when speaking of these days prophecy experts dub “end times“:
They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law. (Luke 12:53, NIV)*
For it isn’t always the conflicts “out there” that cause the most pain and grief, but the ones at home.
However, have you ever noticed how when evil amasses its best, i.e. its worst, it’s usually on both fronts at once–home and abroad?
And for the believer, perhaps making it most difficult to deal with here on the playing field of good and evil are seemingly contradictory Bible passages such as this one: “To every thing there is a season, and a time for purpose under the heaven”–including war.
So the big question and concern is what does one do, exactly, about the mess? Stay or go? Remain silent or speak? Pray or act?
It’s the sort of situation that keeps you close to the Throne, so to speak, listening carefully to try to discern: Is this my battle or Yours, Lord?
And, most importantly, How, exactly shall I proceed? (as every nerve in your body stands at attention, ready to pounce on those wreaking individual and societal havoc).
Wisdom waits for ears to hear (and nerves to settle).
From the Playing Field
Here are a few perspectives from the world’s wisdom:
“Choose your battles wisely. After all, life isn’t measured by how many times you stood up to fight. It’s not winning battles that makes you happy, but it’s how many times you turned away and chose to look into a better direction. Life is too short to spend it on warring. Fight only the most, most, most important ones, let the rest go.”
He will win who knows when to fight and when not to fight. (Sun Tzu)
You must carefully consider the merits of any action. (Takuan Soho)
Wisely and slow; they stumble that run fast. (William Shakespeare)
From the Throne Room
He who is slow to anger is better than a warrior, and he who controls his temper is greater than one who captures a city. (Proverbs 16:32)
He that is slow to wrath is of great understanding: but he that is hasty of spirit exalteth folly. (Proverbs 14:29)
He that hath no rule over his own spirit is like a city that is broken down, and without walls. (Proverbs 25:28)
And regarding both spiritual and temporal battlegrounds, there is this higher calling:
Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:21)
This is where following God’s plan sometimes takes everything we’ve got mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually, keeping in mind the contrasting verses in Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 (…”to everything there is a season…war/peace; plant/uproot; tear down/build…”) where what is needed to overcome evil on any battlefield isn’t necessarily a call to war, to uproot, or to tear down.
Sometimes it is a call to mercy where attributes such as love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control are most effective, especially forbearance and self control (as reflected in both the worldly and spiritual strategies quoted above).
Employing such attributes we are then better able to discern: Is this my battle, or the Lord’s? Is what I’m doing part of His vengeance, or is it just my kneejerk reaction goaded by the frustration of the moment or the fog of the fray?
Will “A soft answer turn away wrath?” or is it time for some “hard ordnance,” so to speak? Is this conflict one of those times reflected in this verse: “When the Lord takes pleasure in anyone’s way, he causes their enemies to make peace with them”? Or is it time to knock some heads, as it were?
Let wisdom rule–whether the battlefield is on the ground or in the spirit.
And consider this: when we do seek God’s ways, especially when we leave vengeance in His hands, in His justice there is also mercy just as in His mercy there is also justice.**
God will take care of the bad guys–at length and forever–in His perfect time and in His perfect way, whether or not we are called to participate.
And for those who mind the third admonition in the opening verse, i.e., to “walk humbly (keep close)” with God, He is faithful to save, heal, deliver, restore–and to complete the good work He has begun in each.
*Bible commentator Matthew Henry clarifies: “Not that this would be the tendency of Christ’s religion, which is pure, peaceable, and loving; but the effect of its being contrary to men’s pride and lusts.”
Thankfully, however, for those who wait still, Henry closes his comments on this passage with some encouragement: “for though divisions will be stirred up, and a man’s own household may be his foes, yet sinners will be converted, and God will be glorified.”
**As illustrated by God offering the sacrifice of His only Son, Jesus, Who took it on Himself to became the justice, you might put it, we deserve, i.e., to pay the price for our sins. For more of an explanation, read here.