"He Hit Me First"
A howl comes from the yard. I investigate. "Why are you crying?" I ask.
"He hit me," the howler replies, pointing to his brother.
"He hit me first," charges the hitter.
"He made a face at me," accuses the howler.
"He wouldn't let me swing," retorts the hitting Pacemaker.
"He wouldn't play catch with me," counters the howling swinghogger. "Enough," I shout, knowing I'll never unravel this. "The survivor will please clean up the blood," I scream wittily. The witty screamer then stalks away...
Retaliation seems almost as natural as breathing, doesn't it? Kids are masters at it, but, then, so are some of us grown-up kids. The desire to hurt people who hurt me is one of my major stumbling blocks.
It helps me, though, to think about King David. He had learned the lesson of Proverbs 24:17: "Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, And do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles..." He knew that God forbids not only vengeance against an enemy but even gloating over misfortunes that you do not cause him.
For example, though Saul hounded David into outlawry and would have killed him, David would not raise his hand against his king. Once, just for humiliating Saul, David's heart smote him (1 Sam. 24:5). Finally, when Saul died, David mourned and composed a dirge for him and Jonathan his son (2 Sam. 1:17-27).
Again, David showed his great heart at the death of Abner, general under Ishbosheth after Saul's death. For years David and Saul's house struggled for supremacy. Finally, Abner came to David to make peace, but Joab accused him of deceit, and, to avenge the death of his brother Asahel, slew Abner. Rather than rejoice, David denounced the perfidy of Joab. Then the king mourned Abner, saying, "Do you not know that a prince and a great man has fallen this day in Israel?" (2 Sam. 4:35).
Solomon, David's wise son, may have had the example of his father in mind when he wrote: "If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; And if he is thirsty, give him water to drink; For you will heap burning coals on his head, And the Lord will reward you" (Prov. 25:21f). Paul referred to this when he urged Christians in Romans 12: "Never pay back evil for evil to anyone ... If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men... Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good" (vv. 17f, 21).
Human vengeance is as punishable as the guilt of the enemy.
Thinking about David helps me cope with the spirit of revenge - to "turn the other check." I hope it helps you, too.