It happens several times each year. A batter is hit by a pitch. The opposing team retaliates by hitting someone. Both teams and managers are warned. An obscure reliever hits another guy. Benches clear. Bullpen guys come running in to join the scrum. The players try to throw some punches, but mostly wrestle around for a while. Players and managers are ejected. Fines are levied. We wait for the next brawl.

Proverbs 20:22 proves why retaliation is a bad strategy–“Do not say, ‘I will repay evil’; wait for the Lord, and he will save you.”

We think retaliation works in baseball, and maybe it does at certain times. But as this verse states, retaliation has no place in the daily life of a believer.

Every player, coach, or parent has someone–or many someones–for whom they’d like to provide the proverbial fastball to the ribs. Enemies come in a variety of manifestations–the person who talks behind your back, tries to subvert what you’re trying to accomplish, makes false accusations, doesn’t like you because of what you stand for, envies your success, etc.

We have a choice to make with the people who do us wrong: pay them back or “wait for the Lord.”

One of those feels great.

The other seems to be letting someone get away with it.

One gets us even, right now.

The other provides no immediate gratification.

One pleases our human nature.

The other pleases God.

In his infinite wisdom, God recognizes retaliation for what it is.

It is dangerous. Just like a pitcher throwing in the upper-90s toward the head of a batter, our retaliatory efforts often cause deep pain in the lives of others.

It always escalates. We don’t know when to stop, nor can we when we travel down the road of retaliation. There’s always someone else to pay back…and payback isn’t what we have in mind. We want to make them hurt more than they’ve hurt us.

It assumes. What if the opposing pitcher really didn’t mean to hit your guy? What if that person you’re paying back made an honest mistake or has owned and repented of the malicious behavior toward you?

It consumes you. Wanting payback causes mental, emotional, and spiritual distraction, to the point where we can no longer hear from God because all we can think about is taking matters into our own hands.

It doesn’t work. In fact, it can often work against us, causing us to be hateful, coldhearted people who claim to be Christians (those things don’t go together).

It doesn’t bring God’s best. “Wait for the Lord; he will save you.” What does that mean exactly in your situation, with your enemy? I don’t know, but God does. Trust him.

It isn’t what God did for us. Romans tells us that while we were still doing wrong to God, he came as Jesus and died for us. How’s that for retaliation?

Lord Jesus, your mercy and grace blow me away. Live those qualities through me. I want revenge on many people. Enable me to extend mercy and grace instead. Amen.