Favoritism, Vengeance, and the Golden Rule

I’ve always hated it when people play favorites. It’s not fair. For the sake of one person, another must lose, and it’s not always based on merit.

Imagine a world based on merit. We would all be in sad shape without Christ.

You don’t like it in elementary school when you’re picked last when the kickball teams are being chosen. You hate it when people only talk to you in middle school if you know the answer to the next algebra problem. You abhor it when the girls only notice the basketball players.

I could go on, but you get the point.

Exclusion hurts, especially when you can’t figure out what you did wrong.

It affects the way you behave toward people.

Jesus said that we should treat people the way we want to be treated. It’s funny how many ways that statement can be interpreted besides the way it was meant, yet it seems to remain true. Check it out.

Not only should we treat people the way we want to be treated, but we do treat people the way we want to be treated. I mean, we seriously can’t help it. Maybe it isn’t conscious, but think about this for a moment. The kid who gets picked last for kickball teams probably didn’t get picked because the kid who was doing the picking doesn’t want to look foolish for making what he believes to be an error. Of course, elementary schoolers aren’t exactly that diplomatic. It usually goes more like “because he’s awful at kickball,” which may be true, but I digress.

This isn’t just limited to not making yourself look the fool. Imagine a bitter man who has been mistreated by so many people that before you even have an opportunity to get to know the man for who he really is, he has already begun looking for your weaknesses so that he can exploit them if he needs to. Or maybe, think about a cutthroat businessman, willing to cut down anyone in his path no matter the consequences because he’s scared that he will be judged by society for being less than rich. Think about the woman in an abusive relationship, who chooses to stay around because she’s afraid of being alone, but doesn’t love herself enough to consider that loneliness for a season is better than abuse. Or the devoted Christian who is so grateful for what she’s been offered in Christ, but is too afraid to tell someone about sins that have become addictions, too afraid to talk about the anxiety and depression.

All of it isn’t just because we should treat people the way we want to be treated. It’s because we do. When we don’t value ourselves, we begin to deprive ourselves of the things we need to live healthy lives. I’m not just talking about food. I’m talking about good habits, good company, goodwill toward men, good faith, good judgment.

It’s especially easy to treat people poorly when we are poorly treated. And a lot of times it’s the same way.

Recently, I came to the realization that I was full of resentment toward two sets of people: those who wronged me and those who did nothing to stop it when I myself could do nothing.

I’m not saying it’s right, but it’s understandable, right? You can see how it would be easy to harbor bitter feelings toward those who brought bitterness to you to begin with, or direct it toward those who failed to purge it from you, right?

I have some solace. I rarely find myself encountering those who have wronged me. Thank God. I think He knows what it would do to me, and He is protecting me from that. And it’s good to just have terrible influences out of your life. They are poison for the soul.

But those who did nothing to stop it or help along the way—well, they’re not all gone.

I noticed a difference in how I treat people, which, if you know me, is entirely hypocritical. I hate the idea of playing favorites. Not only is it not biblical (James 2:1-13), it’s hurtful. I’m grateful to be surrounded by a specific subset of people who have changed my life for the better, and whose very presence in my world is vitalizing and refreshing.

Granted, it’s not easy to be around one of the other subsets: those who failed to be there for me when I needed them. It’s not easy for anyone. You shouldn’t expect, if you let someone down, that you should be treated with favor. You reap what you sow. And consciously or not, I’ve been helping them reap the harvest they planted in me. That’s called vengeance, and it’s no more okay than what they did to me.

It’s not my place to “return the favor” of disappointment. It’s not my place to execute judgment. “Vengeance is Mine; I will repay,” says the Living and Just God. It’s not my place to step into His shoes. I don’t just get to drop the gavel. I have neither the means nor the wisdom nor the upper body strength to wield such a heavy purpose. And as worthy as He is to do so, I doubt that He enjoys it, besides knowing that executing His judgments will ensure the eternal safety of those under His care.

In the moment, it sure as heck feels right, but it isn’t.

How is someone just as unjust as the next person, just as paid for by the cross and resurrection of Christ, supposed to carry out vengeance?

Yet I find myself around my loving spiritual family…

So much happier.

So much brighter.

So much more willing.

So much more able.

So much more driven.

So much more Christian.

But what’s it good for, if the other half of the time, I’m just bleeding bitterness onto those who have caused me grief.

Is it hypocrisy?

Or is it humanity?

It’s definitely not humility.

It’s definitely not helping anybody but the bitterness itself to survive.

I know. The easy trite answer is to give it to God, to let go and let Him do what He does best. But I’ve never been good at letting things go. The blog you’re reading right now is the case in point.

I know we’re all human. I know everyone, including me, is destined to let someone down or cause them pain sooner or later. It’s happened to me plenty, and I’ve done it plenty.

But holding onto this… isn’t mending the past… isn’t healing anyone… isn’t moving anyone forward.

So, I guess I just have to do the opposite of what I’m doing.

You know, people say you have to be true to who you are, and that’s true to an extent. But it’s okay if you don’t want to be. I know I don’t. I know who I am, and he has done some things he isn’t proud of. But I don’t have to be this person anymore. I don’t want to be this person anymore.

Fortunately, Jesus came to make us something new.

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