McNeff: No one wins by holding grudges
September 2, 2017
A cartoon shows a tiny baby, seconds after birth. The physician holds the baby upside-down and slaps him on the bottom. Instead of crying, the kid screams, "I want a lawyer."
Isn't that a pretty good picture of our culture? We are certainly the most litigious society in history.
Forbearance, forgiveness, overlooking a fault — if anything, these are traits that we consider a sign of weakness. Strength is exhibited by defending one's rights. Our rights are our identity, and God help the person who steps on them, advertently or inadvertently.
Of course, we all, myself included, like to see the bad guys get theirs. I remember some John Wayne movie in which Big John arrived just in time to keep a young cowboy from drawing down on someone who had been too attentive to his girl. John turned his attention to the offender and said with clenched teeth, "I'm gonna use good judgment. I haven't lost my temper in 40 years. But, Pilgrim, you caused a lot of trouble this morning. Might have got somebody killed. Somebody ought to belt you in the mouth, but I won't. I won't. The blankety-blank I won't!" and he laid a haymaker on the guy. A muddy melee followed involving all interested parties. Of course, no one really got hurt. It was a movie.
In real life, the grudges raised in defending one's rights often last for years or even decades. No one wins.
This is not to suggest that major infringements of legal rights should not be defended through appropriate channels. If the case is legitimate, the offense costly and a remedy available under law, the pursuit of justice is a major function of government.
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But I am concerned with the minor irritations and personal vendettas that cause breaches in relationships out of all proportion to the "crime."
Not to pick on churches, but not long ago a case made major news in Dallas where a church rift got so bitter that each side instituted a lawsuit seeking to dispossess the other side from the church's property — this despite the warning of Scripture prohibiting professing Christians seeking public redress against each other (I Cor. 6:1-8). An investigation showed that the trouble all began when, at a church dinner, an elder was served a smaller slice of ham than a young person seated next to him!
God has a better way. "A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger" (Prov. 15:1). We might well ask, which displays more strength – a soft answer in a tough situation, or lashing out at the slightest real or perceived provocation?
Actually, God invites those who really trust Him to put all such issues in His very capable hands: "If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord" (Rom 12:18-19). We're trespassing in God's domain when we get into the "defending rights" business.
The world would have a lot more peace if we had a few more people like the guy who, while driving, came to a bridge under construction. The road narrowed to one lane with a light at either end. He stopped on the red light, then proceeded when it turned green. Halfway across he met a car coming the other way. The oncoming driver leaned out his window and shouted, "I don't back up for idiots!" Putting his car in reverse, the first man replied, "No problem. I do."
Wouldn't it be nice if we had a few more people strong enough to "back up for idiots?" Maybe we could be one.
— Dave McNeff is Pastor of Eaton Congregational Church (Conservative Congregational Christian Conference) http://www.eatoncc.org.