Never take vengeance into your own hands, my dear friends: stand back and let God punish if he will. For it is written: ‘Vengeance is mine. I will repay’. … these are God’s words: ‘Therefore if your enemy hungers, feed him; if he thirsts, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head’. Don’t allow yourself to be overpowered with evil. Take the offensive—overpower evil by good! [Romans 12:19-21 (PHILLIPS)]
Have you forgotten what we are to say to ourselves every morning? “Today I shall meet cruel men, cowards and liars, the envious and the drunken. They will be like that because they do not know what is good from what is bad. This is an evil which has fallen upon them not me. They are to be pitied, not—.” [From “Till We Have Faces” by C.S. Lewis]
“They are to be pitied, not…” Not what? Author C.S. Lewis did not complete the sentence and I don’t think the omission was by accident; it was to make the reader fill in the blank. When I read the above passage, I thought of what words would fill in my blank. Reviled, loathed, judged, condemned, berated, censured, disparaged, feared, abused, or despised are just a few and, unfortunately, they describe my more typical reaction than one of pity, compassion, mercy, forgiveness or love.
When we meet those who are cruel, cowardly, devious, and intemperate, what is our reaction? I live a rather quiet life so I don’t cross paths with these and others like them on a regular basis, but I do meet them every day in the news. When we encounter those who don’t know good from bad, those who treat us or others poorly, those who betray people’s trust, those whose mouths spew venom and deceit, what is our usual response? Do I ever pray for them or their families? Or am I more likely to limit my prayers to the victims of their evil? What does Jesus say my response should be? As Lewis suggests, let us never allow that evil that has fallen on others to fall on us as well.
Father, I know that I will meet or learn of people who seem devoid of anything good. May I never forget that they, too, are my brothers and sisters. May I never forget your command to love all, not just the people I can like or respect. Help me find a way to forgive the unforgiveable and love the unlovable. May I never forget to have a soul of compassion and a heart filled with prayers.