Q: My boyfriend and I broke up recently, and it turned into a messy and painful ordeal. My friends say that I should find some way to make my former boyfriend pay for the emotional hurt he caused me. I believe in God and want to please Him by doing the right thing, but at this point I may be too upset to know what is right. How should a Christian react in a situation like mine?
A: It’s understandable that you’re shaken and unsure of how to react, considering all you’ve just been through. You’re on the right track, though, in wanting to please God by doing the right thing. How should a Christian react?–Like Christ reacted in similar circumstances. Jesus couldn’t always control what people did to Him, but He could control His reaction and how it affected His spirit–and so can we. Jesus chose to overcome evil with good, and so can we (Romans 12:21).
In His famous Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in Heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you?” (Matthew 5:43-46).
Later in that same sermon Jesus also explained that we will receive only as much forgiveness and mercy as we show others: “If you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:14-15).
When some of the first Christians suffered wrongdoing, the apostle Peter advised them to follow Jesus’ own example. “When you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God. For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: ‘Who committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth’; who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously” (1 Peter 2:20-23).
Those who become bitter, yield to vengeful impulses, and try to make someone else “pay” for their hurt often never pull out of their own negative emotions. They take matters into their own hands instead of trusting God to right the wrongs, and usually end up making an even bigger mess of things. Instead of the satisfaction and surcease from pain they hope to gain, they wind up remorseful and in great need of forgiveness themselves. But those who put matters in God’s hands and trust Him to make things right in His time, those who forgive and forget, find “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:7). Choose to forgive, rather than seek revenge.