1.0 The Statement
Everyone is plagued in some way by people who dislike or even hate us for one reason or another; sometimes we “make” Offenders; we alienate or offend people and they become our “Adversaries.” Their dislike may or may not be justified. Sometime people simply dislike us for no apparent reason. They may be threatened by us, differ with what we believe or have what it commonly referred to as a “personality clash.” Unwilling to live and let live, they are antagonistic toward us; they choose to live “at war” with us, sometimes overly attacking, other times waging cold war of criticism or manipulation.
There are different kinds of Offenders who assail us in various ways; but no matter how they come packaged, they are hard to cope with. And because we do not know how to handle them or our feelings about them (they make us angry, and we hit back). We let them inflict needless pain and stress on us. As they affect our live, we want to retaliate, thereby intensifying the problem.
The Book of Proverbs contains sound advise on how to handle “Offenders,” which indicates God knows we would have them. They are a part of life, an outgrowth of our basic sin nature. We cannot avoid them, but we can eliminate the influence they exert over us.
1.1 Never Seek Revenge
First, never seek revenge; we must be honest enough to admit we want to “get” at our Offenders; that we want revenge. We want to defend ourselves against further attack, hurt them back, get even and retaliate. God knows this will be our reaction:
1.1.1 God Warns
Proverbs 24:29 (KJV) “Say not, I will do so to him as he hath done to me; I will render to the man according to his work.” God warns us against seeking revenge because “vengeance belongs to the LORD, and He will repay it” (Romans 12:19b). If we take action into our own hands, we have step into the place of God and seek vengeance upon our Offender. What will become of us if God should render to us according to our evil works?
We need mercy at God’s hand, and shall we render nothing but rigid justice to our fellow men in direct opposition to God’s Royal Law of Love? When we revenge injuries at our own discretion, we may do hurt to our Offenders, but we do much greater hurt to ourselves; for the punishment of malice and revenge to which we expose ourselves is far worse than any vengeance which our feeble arm can inflict.
Let us therefore show ourselves to be the Disciples of Christ by loving our Offenders and recompensing evil with good. Thus, we shall “heap coals of fire upon the head of our enemies (Offenders)” (Romans 12:20-21) but following an opposite course, we heap them on our own to our destruction.
“Heap burning coals on the head” means to give a burning sense of shame. In Egyptian ritual a man purged his offence by carrying on his head a dish containing burning coal on a bed of ashes. The verse quoted is Proverbs 25:21 (LXX) but omitting the closing words and the LORD shall rewards thee. Treat our Offender kindly; this may soften his hard heart and take away his evil disposition. The best way to get rid of an Offender is to turn him into a friend (Bruce). Therefore, let good triumph over evil.
1.1.2 God Commands
Proverbs 20:22a “Say not thou, I will recompense (repay) evil.” God commands that we must not pay evil for evil. If private revenge is allowed, it would soon fill the Land with confusion and blood. By indulging in revenge, we would be driven on to make very disproportionable returns for the wrongs done to us.
We might wreak our vengeance on the blameless as David would have done if Abigail had not disarmed his fury. We might bring upon ourselves the guilt that make ourselves miserable, in regret all the remainder of our days.
Most wisely, therefore, and graciously we are forbidden to avenge ourselves, or so much as to say that we will do it. It is a bad thing to have any thought of revenge, but if we say, or swear, that we will take satisfaction at our own hand from him who has offended us, we are entangled in a dangerous snare of the Devil who will endeavour to persuade us that our honour is doubly engaged by the provocation received, and by our word to take revenge. God, who is Perfect Justice, can handle the wrongs we suffer but we are not. Reprisal will only make things worse, so we are told not to wage any counterattacks against our Offenders.
1.1.3 Wait on the Lord
Proverbs 20:22b “But wait for the LORD.” If we suffer the wrongs done to our credit and estate to pass not taking revenge, says one person, I expose myself to every shaft of malice, and may expect still greater injuries than those I have already received. There is no fear for that because the LORD commanded us to wait for Him. We do not like to wait but demand immediate justice, instant vindication. But God commands us to wait on Him because:
- God Promises Deliverance – Proverbs 20:22c “And He shall save (deliver) thee” – The LORD promises to deliver. We are not able deliver ourselves or save ourselves from those who have offended us. However, if we wait on the LORD, He promises to deliver us from those who have offended us. We must forget about who have offended us and concentrate on our relationship with the LORD. When we obey, when we do what He asks us, we have victory, and the LORD is free to deal with those who have offended us without any interference from us.
- God Promises Peace – Proverbs 16:7 “When a man’s ways please the LORD, He maketh even his enemies (Offenders) to be at peace with him.” God promises “peace” from those who have offended us –We cannot make our Offenders to be at peace with us, but God can when we relinquish control of our Offenders to Him.
1.1.4 Control Our Emotions
Proverbs 10:12 “Hatred stirreth up strifes, but love covereth all sins.” Hatred does not harm our Offenders; it debilitates us. We must also control our emotions toward those who dislike us and whom we dislike. It is normal to hate someone who is making our life miserable; who does us an injustice, lies about us, hurts our feelings, or misjudged us; who undermines us to others or manipulates to put us in a bad light – Offenders do all those things and more. But no matter what our Offenders do to us we must not hate them. If we hate our Offenders, we are letting them make us to sin because Proverbs 14:21“He who despises his neighbour sins”
1.1.5 Control Our Actions
Proverbs 25:8 “Go not forth hastily to strive, lest that know not what to do in the end thereof, when thy neighbour hath put thee to shame.” In dealing with our Offenders, we must squelch our inclination to overact; we need to control our actions as well as our feeling. If we wage a verbal battle against an Offender, when the time comes for us to present a legitimate argument, no one will listen, and we will be embarrassed.
1.1.6 Minister to Our Enemies
Proverbs 25:21,22 “If your enemy (Offender) is hungry, give him food to eat; and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink; for you will heap burning coals on his head, and the LORD will reward you.” Instead of retaliating, hating, or railing against our Offenders, we are to minister to them; to do whatever we can to assist them because God will reward us: Difficult it may be to put into practice, we should serve our Offenders. We hurt ourselves if we fight with them; we will be blessed if we minister to them. Our Lord Jesus Christ presented this same truth when He taught: Matthew 5:39, 44 “Do not resist him who is evil; but whoever slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also….Love your enemies (Offenders), and pray for those who persecute you.” The message is clear, we are never relieved of our moral responsibilities because of the way the Offender treats us. There are no limits on God’s Love and there must be no restrictions on ours. That is why God’s Word admonishes us to maintain a loving, compassionate attitude toward our Offenders, even when God deals with them on our behalf.
1.1.7 Do Not Rejoice
Proverbs 24:17-18 “Rejoice not when thine enemy (Offender) falleth and let not thine heart be glad when he stumbleth. Lest the LORD see it, and it displease Him, and He turn away his wrath from him (our Offender).” The LORD commanded us not to rejoice when our Offender Falls; and do not let our heart be glad when our Offender Stumbles. This is a hard instruction. It is difficult not to cheer and clap our hands and dance around the place when our Offender Falls. Hard not to laugh and be glad inside because he finally got what was coming to him.
- Reason – Proverbs 24:18 “Lest the LORD see it, and it displease Him, and He turn away his wrath from him (our Offender).” But gloating when an Offender Falls or Stumbles displeases the LORD, and He may back off when He is intervening for our behalf and benefits. If we rejoice not, the LORD will continue to deal our Offenders, otherwise He will spare them. Difficult as it may seem, all rules of Christian conduct apply in our dealings with our Offenders, and when we follow the LORD’s Word, we will have victory over our Offenders.
- Warning – Proverbs 17:5b “He that is glad at calamities shall not be unpunished.” If we rejoice over the sudden misfortune of our Offenders, we are mocking the God who has providentially visited upon them their affliction.