Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honourable in the sight of all. 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. Romans 12:16-19 (ESV)
Don’t react; respond. To love others as Christ loved us, we need to respond rather than react to their behaviour. Think about it; reactions are usually self-centred and defensive; they lead to a counter-attack where we unleash how we feel and express what we expect or desire or demand of others. Instead of blindly reacting, we should thoughtfully respond. Saying something out of anger always results in damage.
Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret – it leads only to evil. Psalm 37:8 (NIV)
Responses are at the other end of the spectrum: seeing where another person is, and meeting him or her there, with love. Responses involve compassion, insight and a desire for reconciliation that exceeds the desire to win an argument.
Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the Gospel of Christ. Philippians 1:27 (NIV)
In other words, make sure that you respond with a Christ-like attitude. Paul later writes:
You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Philippians 2:5 (NLT)
See to it that no one repays evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue what is good for one another and for all. 1 Thessalonians 5:15 (HCSB)
In the little word “see” lies our responsibility. We are to see to it that we do not repay “evil for evil”. We are to see to it that we respond in an appropriate manner. We are to see to it that we live in response to God’s grace and extend that grace to others. By the grace of God, may we deal with difficult people in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, and – to top it all off – self-control. May we extend the same love, grace and mercy that God extended to us. And may we be careful not to become the ‘difficult people’ ourselves!
Are you reacting to your circumstances in the flesh or responding to life’s challenges in a Christ-like manner? We are the billboard God wants to use to tell the world about Him. What story are you telling with your reactions and responses?