If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is Mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. — Romans 12:18–19
I was eighteen years old around the time rumors were passing through the grapevine about my father’s potential affair, which for a pastor of a church is of particular concern. Not only did I, as his daughter, want to disbelieve it, but I felt passionate to defend our family name after time and again hearing it come out of someone’s mouth — often with at least some element of falsehood. Hurt, weary, fiercely loyal (and in a particular hold-my-earrings season of life after also dealing with some painful mean-girl harassment), I was in peak vindication mode when I was told the name of a person I knew who was the source behind several of the most damaging rumors about my dad.
- That day, I was done with victimhood.
I was over people saying things that weren’t true and causing my family pain. I was through with doing “the right thing” by staying silent. In my mind, this had to stop, and I was the one to stop it.
Personal confrontation, biblically speaking, wouldn’t have been the wrong approach. Matthew 18 teaches us to go directly to someone who has wronged us. But I was mad. I wasn’t seeking spiritual reconciliation; I was seeking to feel better through my own form of vengeance. Those things change the game.
To make matters more combustible, I would be confronting this person at work, in a busy public place. So the conditions weren’t appropriate. In a fog of anger and teenage reasoning, I did not consider this to be of concern.
It’s been more than thirty years, but I can still remember whipping into the parking lot, jerking the car into park. The warm summer air enveloped me as I stepped out of the car and slammed the door, and the cold air hit me as I stormed into the store in what seemed like less than ten steps. I walked fast so I didn’t lose my courage. I can remember the exact moment of confrontation — walking straight up to where this person stood, working, without regard to my foolishness, and giving this person a piece of my mind. I can feel the heat rising to my ears and the adrenaline coursing through my entire body and the way my heel turned to walk away when I finished saying what I wanted to say, without waiting on a response.
I did it: approached the one who had hurt my family. Did I feel better? I wasn’t sure yet. I walked outside and slid behind the driver’s seat, heart beating fast and hands shaking.
My father sure wasn’t impressed by my theatrics. I found that out quickly thereafter, when I drove to his office and someone had already let him know. (Small-town grapevine, again, thanks.) “You can’t go around chewing out everyone who starts a rumor, Lisa,” he said, “or you’ll have a full-time job.” I knew I couldn’t, but my desire to set the record straight had caused me to at least try.
That wasn’t the last rumor that was started about my family. Some were true, some were false, and some were somewhere in the middle, as rumors usually are. Some stories were crueler and hurt deeper, and some I’ve never written about. But Daddy was right. I could never fight them all, even though I wanted to. The desire to get peace for the pain other people caused often felt overwhelming. In the days that followed, my revenge-seeking was a symptom of something deeper: I felt helpless. Then I felt afraid. Angry. And then I tried to control it.
Seeking vindication over something like gossip certainly didn’t feel small to me at the time, when gossip was hurting and affecting my family. And
- gossip isn’t a small concern when you consider how it damages people.
I’ve seen people lose jobs, opportunities, relationships, ministries, and even their lives. James calling gossip a fire in James 3 is wildly accurate. The damage gossip can do — even when there is some truth to the rumor — is not minor.
Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. — James 3:5–6
But both things can be true: gossip is wrong, and we can also be wrong in how we go about trying to vindicate it. This is the case with vengeance regardless of the issue; it is different from biblical confrontation and different from advocacy for biblical justice. God’s omniscience covers the wrongs done to you that you long to personally make right. He knows what happened, knows the truth, and in one way or another, will set it straight.
Excerpted with permission from God Knows by Lisa Whittle, copyright Lisa Whittle.
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Letting rumors go unanswered is painful. Letting our desire for vengeance go is painful. Waiting on the Lord for Him to set things straight is also painful. But, we can trust Him to do it right, to have compassion on both us and our offender. Wait on the Lord! Come share your thoughts with us. We want to hear from you. ~ Devotionals Daily