7 Secrets for a Redemptive Response!
By Sam Nadler
In our evangelistic efforts over the years we have seen many Jewish and Gentile people come to faith in Messiah. As with all people, they come with “emotional baggage” and the scars of sin. Through discipleship we help new believers minister the grace of God to others. The trauma of emotional wounds can bring pain that isn’t easy to recover from: sometimes the victims never completely recover. What can you do when you’ve been wounded by lies, gossip, unkindness and even persecution?
Though gossip may seem harmless, it is a ‘derivative sin’ of bearing false witness. The result of gossip is essentially a triple death: death of the slandered, death of the slanderer and death of one who listens to the slander. “Sticks and stones may break my bones”, but words can hurt you. They can, in fact, break your heart. The potential for harm is described in the New Covenant: “…the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity: defiles the entire body and sets on fire the course of our life and is set on fire by hell” (Jacob/James 3:6). Gossip, slander and offenses in general are pretty much the norm in the world we live in and none of us are immune. However, Scripture provides us an alternative response to feuds, revenge and a vindictive spirit. By His grace, God has called us in Messiah to turn emotional attacks into spiritual opportunities. So, what do we do when we find ourselves wounded in such a way?
- Rely upon the Lord
For all of us, Satan’s ploy is to tempt us to live ‘spiritually independent lives’, rather than depending on the Lord. Our Adversary would have us live focusing on the problem instead of looking to Yeshua. There is no ‘halfway’ trust in God. If you rely on ‘self’ instead of trusting in the Lord, you will retaliate, gossip back, yell, etc. But Messiah didn’t respond this way. You’re probably thinking, “Sure, easy for Him! He’s Ben Elohim, the Son of God.” Actually, because He is the Son of God the offenses wounded Him even more deeply. Scripture gives us the example to follow. What Yeshua did in response to offenses was to entrust His life into the hands of the One who judges righteously. He didn’t revile the offender in return (see 1 Peter 1:21-23). If you will rely on the Lord’s death (and so die to self) and be thereby empowered by the Holy Spirit, you can pray and entrust your issue to that same Righteous Judge.
- Release your Rights to the Lord
Are you concerned that the lies said about you will hurt your reputation? Transfer the rights of your reputation to the Lord. There’s a difference between “right of ownership” as opposed to “responsibility of stewardship.” “You are not your own, you have been bought with a price” (1 Cor. 6:19, 20)! Entrust your rights and reputation to the Lord, realizing whatever the outcome, He is in charge (1 Thes. 5:18).
- Respond ‘Affirmatively’ to the Offense
Respond affirmatively and not negatively to the offense, even as Messiah did regarding the cross – “Who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross” (Heb. 12:2). After all, don’t “we know that God works all things together for good to those that love Him and are called according to His purpose” (Rom. 8:28)? In this world we try to mask the pain with painkillers, rather than deal with the cause. God has a purpose for your pain, “to conform you to the image of the Son” (Rom. 8:29). “So my brethren, count it all joy when various trials come upon you” (Jacob/James 1:2). In fact, your response to the offense speaks more about you than anything someone could say about you.
- Recognize the Offender as the Lord’s ‘tool’
View the offender as a tool of God. Though they may be totally unaware of it, the offender is actually part of God’s arsenal of the “all things” from Romans 8:28 and He is using these things to conform you “to the image of the Son” (v.29). This is why Messiah forgave those who nailed Him to the cross, praying “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). The executioners may have laughed, for they thought they knew perfectly well what they were doing. It was their vocation and they were experts. The truth is, they had no idea Who they were crucifying. But God knew, and He knows the glorious purpose He has for you, even through some miserable circumstances.
5. Resentment is Rebellion
Resentment and bitterness assume a right we don’t have. “Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord” (Romans 12:19). Harboring unforgiveness also denies God’s righteousness. Do we think that the Judge of all the earth will not do right (Gen. 18:25)? Do we hold onto bitterness as a false sense of empowerment, “to not let them get away with it?” Trust the Lord to bring justice to bear in His time and in His way. If you don’t forgive and trust God with this matter, then your rebellion against God will bring His chastening upon your life, “for judgement begins with the household of God” (1 Pet. 4:17).
6. Reaping takes Place in the Sowing
By forgiving, we gain new perspective and recognize that the offender has already begun to receive the consequences of their offense. Whatever a person sows, this is what they will reap, we’re assured in Galatians 6:7, 8. When you sin, you immediately set yourself up for a fall. This is why when people attacked Moses, he immediately began praying (see Num. 16:3,4). Why? Whatever punishment God brings to an offender in this present life is only a ‘warning shot across the bow.’ This life is temporary, but there is eternal judgement to come for all those who resist God. Do I mean that contracting AIDS from sinful activity, or getting imprisoned for a crime isn’t the only judgement on the sin? No, it’s only a warning shot – eternal judgement is yet to come. If you think people will get away with sin, you’ll become resentful and bitter. But, when you realize what will eternally befall lost sinners, out of compassion you would crawl over glass to warn them of the judgement to come.
7. Redeem the Offender by Grace
Messiah taught us regarding personal offenses, “love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you” (Matt. 5:44). For the ‘natural man’ this is impossible. But the Lord can empower you to respond in this manner. Through the offense the Lord can show us some need in the offender’s life that up till now only God was aware of. Through forgiveness, you become a co-laborer with Messiah and you can recognize your calling to minister and pray for them by His grace and love (see 2 Cor. 6:1).
Through the power of the Holy Spirit commit yourself to minister to the offender in some way. In so doing, you will be ‘reacting redemptively’, redeeming the situation to the glory of God. For the Good News of Messiah is not that God punishes sinners, but that by His grace in Yeshua, God redeems sinners! So as the Father sent Yeshua into a world in need of His forgiveness, He sends us with Good News (John 20:21).