Hurt People Hurt People; Christians Must Break the Cycle

Reprinted from the Salt & Light Australia Daily Devotional.

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 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. On the contrary:
‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
    if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.’
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Romans 12:17-21

I am mentoring a female leader in South Africa who has been through some terrible circumstances lately, that have resulted in her losing her job, after 15 years of faithful service.

She was working on a project that has helped thousands of needy people find support, healing and meaningful work. Many have also found Jesus as part of that process.

Now she is in the position of needing healing, and paid work herself.

Since the end of her job was not in circumstances which she would choose, there was a temptation to lash out, or be self-righteous. It is a well-documented phenomenon that people who have been hurt – by other people, circumstance or organizations – tend to go on to hurt others.

However, my mentee was very intentional not to hurt others. As she said, she questioned herself to know, “Have I led my team well during this difficult time? Did the ugliness of the situation yield ugliness in me?”

To help her grow through this difficult time, she asked a deceptively simple question that came out of her own leadership values:
As a leader I have always stressed the importance of reflecting on who we are becoming especially during moments of hardship. Do these situations make us more like Christ or unlike him?

In Romans 12, Paul gives some similar fuel for reflection, warning us not “repay evil for evil,” no matter how tempting that might be. Instead, we should, “Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”

In this way, we break the cycle of negativity and open up the possibility of grace; which has both a positive effect on us, as well as on those around us: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

These were revolutionary words in the revenge cycle culture in which Paul lived. They are still very challenging words to us today. Sometimes it feels better to react and lash out when we have been hurt at work.

However, Jesus modelled a way of responding positively in such situations, sometimes with silence, often with blessing.

Think It Through

  • Have you ever been hurt at work? How did you react or respond?
  • Which of the verses in Romans 12:17-21 really impacted on you when reading them? 

Dear God,
Forgive us that we often lash out either verbally or physically when we have been hurt.
Forgive us that we do this at work, which could be a wonderful opportunity to show people what Jesus is like.
Help us to listen carefully to Paul’s words to the Roman church.
Help us to show restraint, and to rise above the poor behavior of others.
Forgive us when we make poor choices.
Please make things right again.
Help us to bless others, even those who make our work lives hard.
Let us seek to overcome evil by doing good.

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Kara Martin is the author of Workship: How to Use Your Work to Worship God, and Workship 2: How to Flourish at Work. She is also a lecturer with Mary Andrews College. Kara has worked in media and communications, human resources, business analysis and policy development roles, in a variety of organizations, and as a consultant. Kara has a particular passion for integrating our Christian faith and work, and helping churches connect with the workers in their congregations. She is currently conducting research on how to effectively equip workplace Christians to integrate their faith and work.

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