Payback Is Not an Option
By: Anne Peterson
Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. - Romans 12:17
It was so tempting. The response my husband gave me cut deep, and left a sore spot on my soul. It would have been so easy to volley one back at him. Dwelling on negative comments and thinking of comebacks is something I learned a long time ago. But when I became a Christ-follower, God showed me it didn’t look good on me.
One time, when I got hurt, I felt justified in holding onto it. Dwelling on it.
“Someone needs to pay for this,” I said to God.
And God graciously responded, “Someone did—Jesus.”
God wants us to forgive others, but sometimes, we drag our feet. But delaying in obeying God is disobedience. In Galatians 5:25, God tells us to keep in step with the Spirit. When we get convicted, we need to respond. Not later, when we feel like it.
In Colossians 3:13, God tells us we are to forgive others and he tells us how. It isn’t according to how we feel about what they did. Or when we think they are sorry. We are to forgive as we were forgiven.
We didn’t deserve to be forgiven. But being full of grace, God forgave us. When we understand that completely, it helps us get rid of the conditions we have, like strings attached. Romans 5:8 makes it clear we are not to have any conditions. God showed us his love while we were yet sinners. He didn’t say, clean yourselves off and then I’ll forgive you.
Somewhere along the line, I fell into thinking that God showed us favor when we were obedient. This wasn’t obvious to me right away, but I realized it when sometimes I would pray and feel more entitled if I had been obedient. And if God didn’t answer my prayer, I was surprised. After all, wasn’t I doing the right thing?
I’m not sure we really understand God’s mercy and grace. In simple terms, mercy is God not giving us what we truly deserve: the consequences for our negative choices. That is mercy.
Grace, similar but still different, is God granting us good things we don’t deserve. Jesus’ righteousness is accredited to us when we accept Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. We don’t deserve that at all.
Sometimes I’m stingy with grace. It’s more like grace for me, judgment for my spouse. For instance, I’ll be gracious with myself for the very things I get upset about if my husband does them.
I used to have a closet in the back of my mind. In it, I saved all the little things that others did that irritated me. One day while driving, the Christian talk show host said,
“We’ll be right back to talk about when people irritate you.”
Good, I thought. Some people really do irritate me.
He resumed the show, “If you get irritated by others, you have a problem with pride.”
Believe me, I was tempted to turn the radio off. But instead, I listened longer, and he explained, “We get irritated by the actions of others because we somehow think we are above being treated a certain way. That’s pride.” He went on to explain that when Jesus was mistreated, he forgave. I was convicted.
God showed me I needed to clean out my closet. So I started forgiving others instead of keeping score. And my husband was one of them. I remember one day he said to me, “Anne, remember when I did so and so?”
“No,” I responded.
And he said, “Oh, you did forgive me!”
When another offense occurred, I found myself tempted to store it away, but God reminded me to forgive, just like Jesus did. Payback is not an option.
Anne Peterson and her husband Michael have been married for 43 years. Anne is a poet, speaker, published author of 15 books, including her latest book, Always There:Finding God's Comfort Through Loss and another memoir, Broken: A story of abuse, survival, and hope. Sign up for Anne's newsletter at www.annepeterson.com or connect with her on Facebook.
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