I have been thinking about revenge today on my drive around Argyll.
This was stimulated in part by a story that the news is full of over here in the UK about a former Member of Parliament and his ex wife who have both been found guilty of perverting the course of justice. Many years ago he persuaded her to take some speeding points onto her licence by saying she was driving when in fact it had been him. Later on, he had an affair with a work colleague and left his wife for her. His wife, by way of revenge, decided that she would tell the press about the speeding thing, knowing that it would end his political career.
What she did not anticipate was that both of them would end up in court, with the details of their intimate lives being dragged out in front of the media, at the end of which both are now facing a jail sentence.
Revenge, red in tooth and claw, let loose to ravage this way and that, doing damage to all.
I was also thinking about revenge because of another situation we are faced with- involving some people who have acted vindictively towards us, in a way that I will not spell out here. We are sort of in the position to give pay back.
Now I do not claim to be better than most- I am not in any way morally superior. But the words of Matthew 5 above- they gave me a problem.
What do we do when faced with personal injustice? How do we deal with people who slight us, who treat us with disrespect, who see what we are and find it wanting?
I know what my natural reaction is- I lick my wounds, I seek conversations of conspiracy- with people who will speak words of partiality and hostility. I obsessively pick over my rights, my own just cause. I look accross no-mans land and watch for weaknesses in the opposing trench line. In my mind I prepare for war.
But those words of Jesus about turning the other cheek, offering the shirt when they take my coat, walking two miles when forced to march one… they slow me down, discomfort me. Surely he is not wanting some kind of wimpy doormat for others to wipe their feet on?
Well, think about the politician and his wife.
He had it coming- right?