Romans 12:21 – Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (NIV)
Just a few months after my arrival at my first posting on a native reservation out on the prairies of Canada in 1987, I was informed that I was to lead the three nights' wake service of a young man who was killed in a gang fight. Then on the third night, while the family and I were discussing the funeral the next day, one of the elder brothers of the deceased person, a rising native movie star in Hollywood, arrived late and asked his parents, "Who's officiating at the funeral?" His mother pointed at me with a smile and said, "He is — our new pastor." He looked at me and said, "No, I don't want him. I want Rev. "X" [my predecessor] to do it."
I had never been humiliated like that in my entire life. His parents were quite shocked by his rude behaviour, but it was too little, too late, for them to undo the embarrassment. I just gave them an "I understand" look with a courtesy smile and left silently. But I went home that night feeling deeply wounded. Well, I am young and inexperienced, and, after all, it's a big funeral anyway, and I'm not even sure if I can handle it. I tried to comfort myself, but down deep inside I was furious with misery and hatred. During my struggle, however, I was more afflicted with disappointment about my pride, than about the insult.
As I prayed to God for strength to overcome my pride, suddenly I began to visualize the scene of the Lord Jesus on Good Friday vividly. I saw the Roman soldiers mocking at Him, spitting at Him on His face, kicking Him, hitting Him with straps, and then nailing Him on the cross to die slowly, horribly, and painfully. How terrible the way He had to suffer that day, and what was my pain in comparison with His? Really, it was nothing but a mosquito's bite.
What amazed me most was the fact that Jesus neither showed anger nor cursed those who hurt and humiliated Him. Instead, He said to God, "Father, forgive them, for they don't know what they are doing." (Luke 23:34 NIV) That's why He is called the Prince of Peace. The world was hostile to God, but God wanted to make peace by hanging His Son on the cross. He overcame evil with good, and that is what true peace is all about. Peace is not from destroying our enemies but conquering them with good.
I thanked God for showing me how to deal with humiliation and hurt. Peace in my case must begin with me by forgiving the person who wronged me. So I prayed to God for strength to support the family with all my heart, regardless of what happened to me, and I asked God to comfort the mourners.
Two hours later, I received a phone call from the family saying that Rev. "X" could not come, and asked me if I could do the funeral. "Certainly," I replied, "I'll be deeply honoured to do it." I stayed up late that night and promised God that I would do it excellently and do it all for His sake.
Consequently, the family was deeply touched and grateful for my kind response, and although the elder brother never did apologize to me verbally, he exhibited it in his actions. He thanked me and proudly introduced me to every one of his friends as his favourite new pastor and buddy. I had been so close to losing my composure and thus my peace during the experience. Had I followed my sense of resentment, I would have done the funeral with little care or even unlovingly, and the family would have understood it and moved on, but I would never have received that kind of respect, gratefulness, and love from them.
James 4:10 – Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up. (KJV)
Prayer: Dear God, while the world was hostile to You, by right, You could have just wiped them off the face of the earth, but instead, You chose to make peace with them by allowing Christ, Your Son, to be hurt, humiliated, and then die horribly on the cross. The cross is the price You paid for peace, and that's often difficult for us to follow, but grant us enough of the beauty and power of humility that You may lift us up. May we learn by Christ's example that peace indeed begins inside each of us. In His name, we pray. Amen.