|Why Not Rather Take Wrong|
Elisabeth Elliot: How many of us are ready and willing to take wrong in order to keep the peace? Am I correct if I answer, "Not many"? Resentment and bitterness are among the hardiest weeds in our spiritual gardens. The basic human protest, "He did it to me; I'll do it to him," appeals to our sense of justice.
Lisa Barry: How many people do you know who are willing to shoulder an injustice of some sort? I think most of us assume it's only the weak of our society who do that, and they only do it because they haven't the education or the means to do anything about it. But what if the next time someone wronged you, God walked into your room and said, "Just let it go; accept it"? What would you say? Nobody likes to be taken advantage of, and we all want just to serve. But is it something we should demand? Elisabeth Elliot will answer that on today's Gateway To Joy. Here she is.
Elisabeth Elliot: "You are loved with an everlasting love." That's what the Bible says. "And underneath are the everlasting arms." This is your friend Elisabeth Elliot, talking with you this week about what I consider an extremely crucial spiritual principle.
I have here a paper from a very dear man, whom I consider a spiritual father. His name is Frank Murray. He is in his eighties. He has written this paper, which says everything that I would like to say, but he says it so much better.
The text is 1 Corinthians 6:7, which says, "Why not rather take wrong?" The whole verse reads this way: "Nay, already it is altogether a defect in you, that ye have lawsuits with one another. Why not rather take wrong? Why not rather be defrauded?"
"We live in a litigious society. People are suing people over everything and anything. Year by year, it seems to get moreso. But a hankering for lawsuits is not new. The ancient Babylonians and Assyrians had this problem, according to archaeological records. And in the first century in the Roman colony of Corinth, it was for some people a way of life to take their enemies to court.
So we find that Paul had to deal with this, among other shortcomings, in his first letter to the Corinthian church. Verses 1-8 of his sixth chapter contain the apostolic condemnation of lawsuits among Christian brothers. After expostulating at the disgrace of suing each other, he raises the question, 'Why not rather take wrong?'
These are serious questions. For years, I have mulled over them, for myself as well as for various church members who have suffered injury at the hands of brothers and sisters in the same fellowship. I am glad to report that in our own communion, actual court conflicts are almost non-existent between those in good standing. But on a lowered scale, there have been sorrowful breaches of brotherly love.
Now suppose we consider the unlikely possibility that the worst might happen and brother goes to court against brother. The apostolic prohibition comes into force, I should think. 'Dare any of you, having a matter against his neighbor, go to law before the unrighteous and not before the saints?'
He writes with such indignation that the thoughts of the Holy Spirit are very plain. Such action is ruled out. Lesser quarrels, however, that never reach the level of lawsuits are a fairly common menace, and that is what my thoughts are now exploring.
How many of us are ready and willing to take wrong in order to keep the peace? Am I correct if I answer, 'Not many'? Resentment and bitterness are among the hardiest weeds in our spiritual gardens. The basic human protest, 'He did it to me; I'll do it to him,' appeals to our sense of justice.
Remember Paul is not referring to imaginary grievances, but to real hateful wrong. Someone has moved our property landmark or stolen mail from our mailbox or slandered us to our employers or accused us of dishonesty with money or blackened our moral reputation. What then? Shall we keep still and take wrong?
Theoretically, we know the right doctrine. 'Resist not him that is evil. Turn the other cheek.' But scandalized nature rises up and says, 'Never! I may keep still, but I'll not forget. Don't ask me to speak to that person again ever.'
I have given this problem much thought. For in spite of a rather optimistic disposition, my nature is just as sensitive as the next man's. But there is the apostolic question staring me in the face. 'Why not rather take wrong? Why not keep still and leave it to God?' Can I really do this? What shall I do? What shall we all do?
Well, pray for a Christlike spirit, to start with. We all admit that Jesus won this battle. He was falsely accused. He was spit on. He was scourged unjustly till the blood ran. But can we expect to do likewise, even though we pray for grace? Instinctively, we (or I) think that open reviling before enemies would be easier to take than a verbal stab in the back from one we thought was a friend.
Friends, I have to admit that even writing about this is difficult. I feel hackles rise, as many of you perhaps do at the reading. What shall we do? Throw out Paul's question? Is it too much?
Well, no, of course not. For Paul is not alone in this; he has the Master's teaching and example before him all the time. Jesus really did turn the other cheek when they smote the Judge of Israel with a rod. Jesus really loved His neighbor as Himself when He healed the high priest's servant in Gethsemane of his bleeding ear. Jesus covered even Judas' perfidy when He sent the traitor out to do quickly his dastardly work. And He did not expose him to the other apostles.
It may help indignant readers if I tell you what helped me over this hump. It was reading what C. S. Lewis wrote about hating the sin and loving the sinner. He remarked that there was one person he had loved, in spite of his sins, for years and years. That person was himself.
I remember laughing aloud with relief when I first read that. Of course, we all do that, even when guilty of base deeds. We cherish a hope that because our heart is in the right place, we'll not be rejected when the pinch comes. In other words, even though we are our own worse enemies, we still hopefully take wrong and refuse to consign ourselves to the eternal penalties we deserve.
Think about it. Isn't that so? Didn't you take a hopeful view of your own prospects, even after you had been most in the wrong? I'm sorry to say that in seventy years of Christian living, I have acquired some spiritual enemies. It galls me to admit it, especially when hindsight shows me that with more wisdom I might have avoided such breaches. But there it is. There are those who have taken umbrage at me and all my works, and at present I see no way to make peace with them. Penitent letters have done no good. Phone calls, likewise. I feel so sad.
Then about three years ago, it suddenly occurred to me that Jesus foresaw this very situation. In the Sermon on the Mount, He took it for granted that among His own disciples, personality conflicts would arise, and He said, 'Love your enemies.' At another time, He added, 'Pray for them that despitefully use you.'
So I started to make a business of it, praying regularly for every enemy I could think of. Not only praying for their reconciliation, but praying that they and I would certainly share heaven together. I prayed that my stupid tactlessness or lack of wisdom would be undone by the Holy Spirit. I prayed that where any of them were deceived by the enemy and clearly in the wrong that God would forgive them.
This step has changed my world. I believe it is one of the ways that I can take wrong. Perhaps this method may deliver some others from the hard feelings and grudges that have warped their lives. It may help if we put our wrongs in the right perspective.
I know of two Christian men, years ago, who hung on the brink of hell for months because of a six-foot dispute over property lines. What a pity! Why not let the other man have it? What difference will it make when this life is over? Thank the Lord that this particular dispute between two basically good men was finally resolved peaceably without going to court.
Another angle that needs mentioned is that usually human acrimony is stirred up by Satan himself. My mother used to say at such times that 'We'd better watch out for the cloven hoof,' her way of identifying the arch enemy, Satan.
When two good friends are suddenly changed into enemies, we can be very sure that some malignant and satanic third party is involved. I have witnessed such tragedies over and over. Even when the real cause is concealed, I have found that a good solid prayer of resisting the devil and honoring the blood of Jesus has a wonderful way of clearing the air.
We might say that when we take wrong, we surprise the devil so much that he falls all over himself. He thrives on contention. Christians thrive on peacemaking." That's the end of Frank Murray's little paper on "Why Not Take Wrong?"
I want to read you a quotation from the 17th century from Francois Fenelon. He said this, and it has become a very simplifying principle in my life: "Accustom yourself to unreasonableness and injustice. Abide in peace in the presence of God, who sees all these evils more clearly than you do, and who permits them. Be content with doing with calmness the little which depends upon yourself, and let all else be to you as if it were not." Wonderfully wise counsel.
Lisa Barry: What a powerful reading. If some of you listening are going through a horrific trial right now, today's suggestion might seem out of your reach. If that's the case, let me recommend a great book Elisabeth has written called A PATH THROUGH SUFFERING. It's not a pop psychology book that oversimplifies your pain. Instead, it shifts your confidence off of yourself and onto God. It realigns your life with God at the center and offers a renewed chance at home. We even have this book available in large print now. So if reading small print is difficult for you, we can help you out.
Here's where to call for more information: 1-800-759-4JOY. That's 1-800-759-4569. Or you can write to us at Gateway To Joy, Box 82500, Lincoln, Nebraska, 68501. Our Internet ministry address is gatewaytojoy.org. Gateway To Joy has been a production of Back to the Bible.
Tomorrow Elisabeth talks about how to endure the suffering that results from the mistakes of others. That's next time on Gateway To Joy.