“They are being mean to me. How should I respond?” It is a pretty common question that people struggle with when relationships fracture. Among friends, family, or ex-spouses, the question arises repeatedly.
As a therapist, I understand the dynamic; a desire for balance, equilibrium, fairness. It is as old as man himself, the desire to be treated correctly. In a distorted view, there is a desire to retaliate. How am I to act when I am mistreated by others?
If I framed the question back to the person in this way, they might be able to answer, but likely they believe that there is an exception for when the pain is too much.
We are to “go the extra mile’, unless this is the third time the offender has done this in the past 30 days. We are to “turn the other cheek”, unless they are just doing this to spite me.
The point in all these situations is, we are not called to “right the ship”, to make sure that “everything is equal”, or to make sure that no one takes advantage of us. We are called to regulate our own behavior, to act godly in a godless situation. The question is never “what should they do”, because we don’t control them.
When the clouds roll back, at the dawning of the new heavens and new earth, when Jesus reviews our lives with us… we don’t answer for them. At that throne room scene, when we stand before the judgment seat of God, it isn’t about anyone else’s behavior at all. We will want to have done the right thing.
The mystifying thing about the account of the life of Jesus as recorded in Scripture is how focused he is on the end goal. As his disciples want to call down fire from heaven, he anticipates bearing the sins of the world, none of them his own, for the greater purpose.
I know, when we get mistreated, it is natural to want to get even. The idea of blessing the one who causes your babies to cry themselves to sleep at night is repulsive. The concept of treating with grace and kindness the one who treats you with disrespect and hurtfulness is painful. But, God has called you to view this world through a different lens. He calls you even when it is hard.