Not Retaliating

“Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again." (1 Peter 2:23)

What a common dictate of the fallen and regenerate heart to resent and recriminate! How alien to natural feeling to answer cutting taunts, and meet unmerited wrong with the Divine method the Gospel prescribes—"Overcome evil with good” (Rom. 12:21). It was in the closing scenes of the Savior’s humiliation, when, silent and unresenting, he stood “dumb before his shearers" (Isa. 53:7), that this beautiful feature in his character was most wondrously manifested. But it beams forth, also, for our imitation in the ordinary and less prominent incidents of his pilgrimage.

When he met Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, he found him clinging to an unreasonable prejudice— ’’Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” (Jn. 1:46). The severe remark is allowed to pass unnoticed. Overlooking the unkind insinuation, the Savior fixes on the favorable feature of his character, “Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!” (Jn. 1:47). After his resurrection, he appears to his disciples. They were cowering in shame, half afraid to confront the glance of injured good-ness. He breathes on them, and says, “Peace be unto you" (Jn. 20:19).

Peter was the one of all the rest who had most reason to dread estranged looks and upbraiding words. But a special message is sent to reassure that trembling spirit that there was no alienation in the unresentful heart he had so deeply wounded: “Go and tell the disciples and Peter” (Mk. 16:7). Even when Judas first revealed himself to his Lord as the betrayer, we believe it was not in bitter irony or rebuke, but in the fullness of pitying tenderness, that Jesus addressed him, “Friend, wherefore art thou come?” (Mt. 26:50). Tears and prayers were his only revenge on the city and scene of his murder. “Beginning at Jerusalem," was the closing illustration of a spirit “not of this world"—a significant parting testimony that in the bosom that uttered it, retaliation had no place.

More than one of the disciples seems to have imbibed much of this mind of their Lord. “We owe St. Paul,” says Augustine of Hippo (354-430), “to the death of Stephen”—“they stoned Stephen ... and he kneeled down and cried with a loud voice, ‘Lord! Lay not this sin to their charge”’ (Acts 7:60).

Take another example: The great apostle of the Gentiles felt himself under a painful necessity faithfully to rebuke Peter in the presence of the whole Church. He had recorded that rebuke, too, in one of his epistles. It was thus to be handed down to every age as a permanent and humiliating evidence of the wavering inconstancy of his fellow-laborer. Peter, doubtless, must have felt acutely the severity of the chastisement. Does he resent it? He, too, puts on record, long after, in one of his own epistles a sentence regarding his Rebuker, but it is this—“Our beloved brother Paul” (2 Pet. 3:15)!

Reader, when tempted to utter the harsh word, or give the cutting or hasty answer, seek to check yourself with the question, “Is this the reply my Savior would have given?” If your fellow-men should prove unkind, inconsiderate, ungrateful, be it yours to refer the cause to God. Speak of the faults of others only in prayer; manifesting more sorrow for the sin of the censorious and unkindness, than for the evil inflicted on yourselves. Retaliate! No such word should have a place in the Chris¬tian’s vocabulary. Retaliate! If I cherish such a spirit toward my brother, how can I meet that brother in heaven? “But ye have not so learned Christ" (Eph. 4:20).

Arm yourselves likewise with the same mind!


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