Small revenges for small evils

1 Thessalonians 5:15

“What’s So Amazing About Grace?” was a pivotal book in my life. I had understood the meaning of grace – doing good to someone who deserves the opposite – but Philip Yancy brought the power of grace alive to me.

His book is full of enormous acts of grace: stories of concentration camps, murders, vicious attacks, and the grace that overcomes such awful acts.

I find it difficult to relate to such huge acts of forgiveness. I admire them certainly but they are beyond my experience. However, one story of a more domestic nature skewered my thoughts. Philip Yancy tells this as a true story that occurred between some of his friends. I still remember it 20 years later (though the details have become somewhat foggy, for which I ask forgiveness):

A young wife is preparing for her anniversary. She makes her husband a romantic dinner, puts on a pretty dress, and waits in the candlelight for her husband to come home. The husband however has forgotten their anniversary. He goes for drinks with colleagues after work, and comes home very late, after his wife has already given up and gone to bed.

Now, in the morning, what is going to happen? If you were the one who had made the dinner, how would you feel in the morning? More importantly, what would you do?

In the morning, the wife wakes up, makes breakfast for her forgetful husband and makes love to him.

What?! Even now I find that story to be wrong way around. He doesn’t deserve that!

That man did the wrong thing. The wife should be angry. She should be upset or shouting. Things may even be thrown. He has to make it up to her. He should be the one making breakfast, buy flowers, grovelling even.

A forgotten anniversary is a very small wrong. But even for that, I feel the desire to pay back in kind.

When I think about it, almost all of my temptations are in smaller matters. It is in small things that we are tempted to repay wrong for wrong – taking small revenges for small evils.

  • Someone using office politics to gain a promotion that I deserved
  • A ridiculing comment in a team meeting
  • An uncaring response from a company’s telephone operator
  • A breaking of trust by a friend

For such “small” things, I might well be tempted to pay them back – just a little: a small unkindness, a kind word withheld; a little gossip. A small hurt for small wrong.

I need verses like this to help me catch these thoughts and change my actions. To let go of my desire to inflict these small revenges, and instead, “as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people” (Gal 6:10).

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3 thoughts on “Small revenges for small evils

  1. It certainly was and still is a powerful book. The chapter on The Mathematics of Grace was one that made a very powerful impression on me. Perhaps it’s time to go back and read it again!

  2. Thank you brother for helping us see the need for grace in the everyday. It’s so easy to focus on the huge, and counter-intuitively accept that more easily.

  3. Thank you Phillip. Unless i remember how much grace was lavished upon me when in repentance and faith i came to the cross i will be less inclined to be generous in the giving of grace towards others. I’ve noticed that in my own walk its not instant most of the time. I have to come to God and ask Him to allow me to show grace. Its a matter of the heart. Its part of crucifying my flesh.
    Grace is not, turning a blind eye to sin. To be a community of grace doesn’t mean that we ignore sin. But that we humbly admit our wrong doing and ask for forgiveness. It works best that way. No better way to have genuine fellowship with one another.

    Its the little foxes that ruin the vineyard.

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