I am in the Right!
By Terry Gardner
How do you react when you are mistreated? When people gossip about you? How do you feel when you are “done wrong?” I sometimes talk to people who got mad because of some wrong (real or imagined) and they are no longer involved in any local congregation but think they “are still alright with the Lord.” How should a Christian react to mistreatment, trouble and persecution?
The first question any Christian must ask is, “What would Jesus do,” in similar circumstances. Fortunately we don’t have to guess. Jesus taught, “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Matt. 5:10-12.
Jesus not only taught us how to live but he left us his example. Christ “committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in his mouth; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously.” I Peter 2:22-23. We sometimes sing the song that Jesus could have called 10,000 angels to destroy the rulers who sneered at Him and the soldiers who mocked Him while he was suffering in agony on the cross. Instead He prayed, “Father forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” Luke 23:34.
Jesus was perfect in both thought and action. I, on the other hand, fall way short. Perhaps my experiences may help us all to improve in this important area of Christian living. There are several questions I ask myself that help in this challenging area.
I moved to Indianapolis in 1984. I was twenty-seven years old and one of the youngest Regional Managers in my Company. I worked with a Human Resources Manager who was also very young and we tended to argue about things a good deal. On one occasion he called me and he was mad! He tore into me and instead of responding in kind, I just listened. The more I listened the madder he became until he began to lose his credibility. Finally he ran out of steam. Rather than arguing my case, I simply responded, “I am very sorry you feel that way.” He now became very embarrassed. He realized he’d had gone over the top and now he apologized profusely. We never had another argument and from then on we each strove to see things from the other person’s point of view. “A gentle answer turns away wrath.” Prov. 15:1.
We are all sometimes consumed with being right. One of our facility managers did a detailed study on parking lot lights. She determined most lights did not need to be on at night due to low lot usage. A new president asked her to leave the lights on. She was very upset because she knew the right answer was to leave the lights off! I asked her, “Is this really a hill worth dying on?” I added, “Leave the lights on and get to the know the new president. Once he knows you better you can revisit the issue.” We not only want to be right, we want to right right now. Solomon tells us not to be “excessively righteous” and they “destroy” ourselves. Eccl. 7:16. His point is that sometimes we make a huge issue of something that we are “right” about but it is a small issue. In fighting about that issue we destroy a lot of our influence and then people will not listen to us about the more important matters. The facility manager was 100% “right” but she would have destroyed all of her influence on a very small issue.
Immediate responses when we are mad and when we are sure we are right (even if we are right) get us into a lot of trouble. A few years back a senior manager wrote an email taking me to task and copying my boss and my bosses’ boss. This manager’s criticism of me was not only wrong, it had nothing to do with my job. They had confused me with someone else. I was composing my own very HOT email to put this person in their place when the phone rang. It was my boss. He knows me very well. The call began, “Don’t reply. I will handle it.” End of call. I would have done the wrong thing in my anger and my haste. To reply to such an email in anger would not have increased my standing in my company. I have tried to make it a rule to never write an email when I am mad. If someone is mad when they write me I either do not reply or I pick up the phone and call them. “Everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.” James 1:19-20
Being slow to speak has never been my strong suit. Many years ago I made a very quick glib remark in a meeting at the expense of someone else. Everyone laughed except the person about whom all were laughing. That person was not happy as I found out the next day. I immediately went to the person offended and apologized for my sin. I asked for their forgiveness. Their reply was that they would have to think about it. Now before you judge the one withholding the forgiveness remember you were not there and cannot judge how badly this person was hurt. Solomon tells us “A brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city.” Prov. 18:19. I gave this person some time and space and forgiveness was granted, love and respect were restored. We should always be quick to forgive but never forget that words are weapons and some people once wounded, will have a difficult time forgiving.
Think before you speak. Ask if the matter that you are upset about is really a hill worth dying on. Ask the question, “Even if I am right does this really matter more then the love I have for others.” Remember our great example who for the “joy set before Him endured the cross” and sat down “at the right hand of the throne of God.” Heb. 12:2. Try rejoicing when persecuted rather than crying about how badly someone mistreated you and extend to others the love you want for yourself. It will make life more pleasant and you will find the peace that passes all understanding.