When my large yellow Labrador retriever was a small and somewhat manageable puppy, we trained her on simple commands: Come, Stay, Wait, and Leave It. She came from an Amish farm in Pennsylvania, and it didn’t take us long to realize that she only spoke German. Or maybe it was that obstinate thing that dogs have when they want to do life their own way. In any case, “Leave It” was never quite accomplished. There are many things she still refuses leave: my boot in her mouth as she trots around the house, a prize piece of meat that she has procured from the counter, the geese who live in her back yard, and that toy that she insists on bringing everywhere. “Leave It” is not in her vocabulary.
I think the same thing goes for us. God’s command to “Leave It” goes ignored and rejected. We love to hold onto our sinful behavior, our anger, our addictions, our inappropriate relationships, our arrogance, etc. Our refusal to leave things that are dangerous grieves the very heart of our Lord who wants what is best for us.
Paul tried to train his church in Rome to leave behind things that would be harmful to their walk as new Christ-followers. He encouraged them to be people of peace who relate to others as equals. His most challenging words are in regard to repaying evil for evil. He contends that vengeance is not for us to pursue, but something we should leave entirely up to God.
Romans 12: 16-21 (Common English Bible)
16 Consider everyone as equal, and don’t think that you’re better than anyone else. Instead, associate with people who have no status. Don’t think that you’re so smart. 17 Don’t pay back anyone for their evil actions with evil actions, but show respect for what everyone else believes is good.
18 If possible, to the best of your ability, live at peace with all people. 19 Don’t try to get revenge for yourselves, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath. It is written, Revenge belongs to me; I will pay it back, says the Lord.20 Instead, If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink. By doing this, you will pile burning coals of fire upon his head. 21 Don’t be defeated by evil, but defeat evil with good.
This may be the hardest lesson for us today. It is a normal and natural response to strike back when we have been struck. Who among us has not dreamt of seeing an enemy receive their comeuppance?
But God calls us to a better way. God’s word invites us to the standard of humility that Jesus exhibited. God’s word tells us to live peaceably with everyone. God’s word demands that we only do good to those who have opposed and betrayed us. God’s word requires that we not be defeated by evil, but that we defeat evil with good. And so if our enemy is hungry or thirsty, we are commanded to supply what they need.
This is the way we will win the world for Christ. To take on his servant aspect and serve others, even our enemies, will be a witness to the power of the unconditional love we received at the cross. And the world will know us by our love.
There is genius in this. Do you know the best way to defeat your enemy? Make him a friend. Thus your enemy no longer exists.
Where is God calling you to “leave it” … to leave your self- righteous anger or your need for retribution? Leave it up to him, and you will find peace.
Leave It All Behind by Michelle Robertson