Sunday, June 23, 2013

Why not rather be wronged?

Ah, the sweet grace of conviction. Though it comes with a sting, the initial twinge fades quickly, leaving a space for grace in its wake. Confession flows from my heart reflexively--I'm eager to be rid of the poison of my sin. Repentance is a different story. How I do I walk it out?

I have recently been convicted of a negative and critical spirit. I am so grateful for the grace that revealed it, and I have confessed my negativity and criticism as sin. But the sinful behavior in which I have participated has created some residual complications. Though my sin is forgiven, there are challenges in moving forward. How do I navigate them in a way that allows God to change me. How do I cooperate with his redemptive process?

The first step is staying sensitive to the holy spirit. Because I have cherished my sin for months (yes, I have been negative and critical habitually), I can easily fall back into that sinful pattern. The moment I am convicted, I need to choose confession and repentance AGAIN. To repent literally means to turn and go the other way. When I feel the urge to engage in negative and critical thinking, I can ask the Lord to help me to turn and go the other way: With his help, I can choose to dwell on whatever is right, whatever is noble, whatever is pure, whatever is good. Believe it or not, we are not victims of our own thought patterns! With God's help we can change them.

I have not only been critical in my thinking. Sadly, I  gave word to those sinful thoughts. I said things I should not have, and my words have been destructive. Sin makes a mess, and while God faithfully forgives my sin, he often uses the consequences of my sin to refine and purify me--which, though painful at the time, is his grace-filled way of making me more like Jesus. In other words, he forgives the sin, but leaves the mess that it created. Then he patiently shows me his plan for dealing with the mess and invites me to engage in the process--not as a means of penance, but as an opportunity to walk in righteousness.

And so, with my figurative broom in hand, I am seeking his wisdom for how to move forward through my mess. I can't un-say the things that I said--you can't un-ring a bell. But I can acknowledge to the hearers that I regret saying them. Here is the tricky part: while my thoughts and words were critical, they were not untrue. In fact, the things of which I was critical remain unresolved and bothersome. But that is not the point! The point is, God wants to free me from thought and speech patterns that are corrupting my soul and pushing me toward pride and self-righteousness. He wants to teach me to extend grace in the midst of wrongdoing, and not just when others have cleaned up their act! The Lord has challenged me with this:

Why not rather be wronged?
I Cor 6:7

In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul admonishes believers for suing one another in public courts of law. He is appalled at what this sort of behavior is doing to their testimony. He is disgusted that they are more interested in their civil "rights" than their moral obligation to love and forgive. So finally, in an exasperated tone he asks this question: Why not rather be wronged?

Oh how that rubs against the flesh, the flesh that resists being wronged in any way. But Paul insists that it is preferable to accept being wronged than to sinfully pursue my "rights." What about liberty and justice for all? What about calling others to account? What about speaking the truth? What about God's standards or righteousness?

I'm sure Paul knew all about those things when he penned these words. And still he penned them.

Why not rather be wronged?

Jesus said it another way: 
You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also. Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you.
The challenge begins in choosing not to retaliate in the midst of being wronged, but It doesn't end there. The real challenge is realizing that demanding my "rights"--even when I have the right--can be wrong.

We have reduced "turning the other cheek" to simply ignoring bad behavior and not hitting back. In fact, "turning the other cheek" was much more than a refusal to retaliate--it was acceptance of yet another blow. To prefer being "wronged" to having "rights."

And so this is the path of repentance for me. To shut up even though the injustice remains. To choose to accept future injustices rather than insist upon my rights. To willingly be wronged--which is not the same thing as being victimized, for a victim has no choice in the matter. Rather than "sue" my brother--rather than verbally abuse and discredit those believers with whom I have a dispute, I am called to turn the other cheek.

Lest you think I am being spiritually superior or disgustingly unselfish, let me assure you that everything in me wants to justify my negativity and criticism as merited. And as if that were not sick enough, I have not even alluded to the possibility that I could actually be mistaken in the matter. What if my criticisms are not justified? What if they are, in fact, slander? What if I am not being "wronged" but am actually IN the wrong? All the more reason to pursue the path set out before me. For if I choose to turn the other cheek, and find a kiss in the place of an expected blow, will I not see all the more clearly the error of my ways?

So prayerfully, I inch forward, rejecting the critical thoughts and choosing pure thoughts instead. I entertain the idea that though I feel like the one who has been wronged, it is possible that I am deceived in the matter. I turn the other cheek--anticipating the possibility of a sting, but trusting that God's grace is greater. And when I sense the flesh spurring me to demand my rights, I will ask myself this question: Why not rather be wronged?


  1. That hits home with me,too.To quote Joyce Meyer,"Ouch,Hallelujah!"

  2. Thank you, again, for speaking truth. How thankful I am that He is gracious.

  3. Your article is really nice to have relationship with Jesus is very nice thank you hail from Greece

  4. When we have in our hearts through the Jesus we should not fear anything the love of Jesus is too big for all the world as long as we can repay our fellow man