I’m among the first to feel my temperature rise when I feel I’ve been treated wrongly. However, I learned early on while playing sports that reacting in a bad way hurts you and hurts your team. For instance, have you ever watched baseball and see a player start arguing with the umpire only to have his manager come flying out of the dugout to take over the argument? Why doesn’t the manager just pull the player aside? After all, these arguments usually end up with the manager being ejected. There’s a couple of reasons for this. The first is that with respect to the individual game, usually the player is too valuable to lose by being tossed out. If the manager is tossed, he’s already set into motion a lot of things and he’s counting on his bench coach and the rest of the staff to make the decisions that need to be made for the remainder of the game. After all, that’s what they get paid to do. Second, he continues the argument because someone has to take up on behalf of the player. Think about it for a minute. If you were a player and you thought the umpire made a bad call, but then your manager didn’t back you up, would you feel compelled to play hard for that man? Probably not.
Jeremiah faced a similar situation. He was sent to deliver God’s message to Israel. The problem was that the people who were supposed to receive the message mocked it. This wasn’t a big surprise given the heart condition of those people. I’m sure Jeremiah expected it, but faithfully he went anyway. After he had tried, here was his prayer:
Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed;
save me, and I shall be saved,
for you are my praise.
Behold, they say to me,
“Where is the word of the Lord?
Let it come!”
I have not run away from being your shepherd,
nor have I desired the day of sickness.
You know what came out of my lips;
it was before your face.
Be not a terror to me;
you are my refuge in the day of disaster.
Let those be put to shame who persecute me,
but let me not be put to shame;
let them be dismayed,
but let me not be dismayed;
bring upon them the day of disaster;
destroy them with double destruction!
- Jeremiah 17:14-18, ESV
First, note Jeremiah’s reliance on God. God could heal and God could save. He wasn’t relying on himself. He was relying on God. When we are treated wrongly, we can rely on God to heal us and to save us, too, even if we don’t see a way that is possible. It is God’s decision, of course, but if He decides that’s what we need, then it will be done. Second, note how Jeremiah describes God, “You are my praise.” Magnificent. He’s in a tough spot. He’s in a tough spot because God sent him there. Yet Jeremiah describes God as his “praise.” Do we do the same?
Then Jeremiah gets to the heart of the issue. He lodges his complaint against the people. They were told the truth, but then they mocked it. Jeremiah is pleading his case. He did what was asked. He followed God’s direction. The people didn’t respond. As a result, he asked God to deal with the folks who acted wrongly. He asked that God not move against him because the people failed to respond. Yes, Jeremiah even prayed for their destruction, seemingly in conflict to saying he didn’t wish upon them “the day of sickness.” There are a few interpretations for this. The first is that though Jeremiah didn’t want it to happen, he knew it was a necessity and pleaded for God to take action. In other words, getting rid of the bad influences so the rest of God’s people wouldn’t be influenced. A second is that Jeremiah simply wasn’t going to raise his own hand. He would rely on God to administer justice as He saw fit. A third is that when Jeremiah went to the people, he sought what was best for them (unlike another prophet, Jonah, who didn’t want to see a single Assyrian receive mercy). However, their response caused him to realize that they had chosen to align against God and therefore Jeremiah asks for a swift and complete destruction. Whichever the explanation may really be, what we can take from Jeremiah’s prayer is that Jeremiah didn’t try and avenge the wrongs done to him and to God. He left it in the hands of God. Therefore, we see the appropriate response when we are treated wrongly:
- Appeal to God for healing and saving, if needed.
- Remember that God is our praise, regardless of the circumstances.
- Do not take action ourselves for revenge.
- Appeal for the decision to be left in God’s hands.
There are other parts of Scripture that back up such an approach. This is how we should respond. It may not always be easy, but it is right. There is no justification in committing a wrongful act in response to a previous wrong. God doesn’t look at us and compare us to others. He doesn’t “grade on a curve.” He looks at us individually and compares us to the standard. He expects that we meet evil with good, even when it is the most difficult thing we could ever do. Meeting evil with good doesn’t mean getting walked all over. What it does mean is choosing not to seek revenge but to praise God and leave it in His hands. His judgment is perfect. Therefore, He will do the best thing in the circumstance. When we are right, God will act in the best way possible. To go back to the analogy I opened with, we are His players, and He is the manager. Only, there isn’t an umpire who can throw Him out of the game!