“[Love] does not seek its own, is not provoked” (I Corinthians 13:5).
Oh, how very easy it is to punch back. Ask nearly any guy, and he will tell you: if you take a hit, you hit back—defend yourself! Well, sometimes it’s hard to be lying on the floor, ready to let loose your fury on the person who put you there, yet choose to hold back your wrath. It’s not easy, but it’s usually right. Most Christians will read this sentence and nod their head in agreement, but this isn’t just an analogy. For me, this stirs up a very poignant and painful memory.
To summarize, one night my brother woke me up and asked me to do something, to which I refused. My brother didn’t like that answer, and in an effort to convince me to comply, pulled me to the ground. On the way down, apparently I kicked him, and he instinctively punched my face, knocking my head onto the floor. For a very brief, but intense, moment I wanted to hit him; I don’t think I ever had such a desire to inflict pain onto him. I’d always been bigger than him and was confident that, if I indulged in my vengeance, I would likely win. By the grace of God, I held back. I took a moment, and I saw what would happen next: I’d hit him, he’d hit me, and we would repeat that sequence until one of us eventually wore out. Instead, I stayed on the ground, let his head cool off, and I went back to bed without any more incident.
Neither of us walked away undamaged. I awoke with a black eye, but that was nothing compared to the damage to our relationship. I believe my brother still carries the guilt of that night. It took a long time before all those wounds healed, but how much worse would it have been if I had hit him back? How long would we have traded blows, even though we loved each other? How much worse would we have both been if I followed that instinctive desire to satiate my anger? Thankfully, I don’t know.
I cannot claim that my heart was exclusively in the place of love, but I wanted to minimize the damage of what happened, so the results were not dissimilar. When love gets dragged around, when it gets pushed down, and even when it gets hit, it takes the pain, because any other action is going to make the situation worse. When we love people, we care more about that connection, about improving their lives, than we do about how it makes us feel. It isn’t always easy, but God hasn’t asked us to follow an easy path. After all, we’re called to be like Jesus. How much, I wonder, did Jesus resist His desires to protect Himself and His honor on the day of His death?