The Pendulum of Retaliation

Jack loved his big sister, Annie. He just didn't always show it.

One day Jack and Annie were upstairs playing. All was well until their mom heard Annie let out a blood-curdling scream. She rushed into the bedroom where the two siblings had been playing. There was Annie, body contorted, totally at the mercy of her little brother who held tight to a fistful of Annie's hair.

As the mother gently released Jack's fingers, she said in a comforting tone, “There, there Annie, he didn’t mean it. Jack just doesn’t know how much that hurts.”

Mom was barely out of the room when she heard Jack's high-pitched shriek. Rushing back in, she asked, “What happened?”

“He knows now!” Annie said with a “satisfied grin.”

There’s a little Annie inside all of us isn’t there? Something deep within wants to retaliate.

  • If he is going to criticize, I can find a fault or two.
  • If she ignores me, I'll ignore her.
  • If she is going to give me the “angry stare,” I'll just stare back.
  • If he's not going to pull his weight, he can forget getting my help.
  • If he cuts in front of me, I'll just lay on the horn.

Like a pendulum, retaliation swings back and forth, back and forth. Will it ever stop? Only if we take God’s word to heart:

See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. 1 Thessalonians 5:15 ESV

Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord." To the contrary, "if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head." Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Romans 12:19-21 ESV

God’s answer to the pendulum of retaliation is grace. Grace refuses to pay back a wrong with a wrong. In fact, grace pays back a wrong with a right. It catches the pendulum, attaches a blessing, and delivers good in return. When it receives criticism, it sends a little praise in return. When a menacing look comes its way, it sends a big smile in return. When treated poorly, it gives a banquet of kindness in return.

Such gracious living is made possible by the Grace Giver. Only when we rely on him to provide justice and to power our kindness can we stop the pendulum  and “return to sender” a little taste of God’s grace.

Jack and Annie are everywhere. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.