When growing up, my parents had some memorable sayings. One of those was: “Don’t stoop to their level.” This was usually in reference to someone who had been spreading rumors about us kids or someone who had been mean. The caution was that we should not become like them especially by wanting to get revenge or “justice” – as I was thinking it. The problem with actually doing this is this: I resent the fact that their words or actions have put “doubt” on my words or character (for the moment) BUT when I stoop to their level, I have actually given them the power to CHANGE my character. I have actually given their words MORE power. It is no longer just the power of annoyance; I have handed them power to fundamentally change who I am. Trying to get at them; I have become them.
I see this illustrated so clearly in the life of Moses. God said that Moses was the most humble man of ALL. Look how people bashed him time and time again. The next day Moses gets up, puts on his sandals, and leads them like nothing had ever happened!! The day before they had wanted to elect someone to take them back to Egypt; Moses gets up and still leads them toward the Promises Land. They accuse him of killing Korah and his posse as if Moses had the power to open the ground. The next day God sends a plague on these murmurrers; Moses prays for their healing! Aaron and Miriam complain that Moses is a dictatorship when they think that they deserve the same status. God strikes Miriam with leprosy; Moses prays for her healing.
Every time Moses maintained his humility, GOD took care of business. Moses does not rejoice in God’s judgment but instead prays for God’s mercy on the very same people who had just wronged him. He gives meaning to the New Testament principles: “Love does not rejoice in iniquity but rejoices in the Truth” and “Pray for your enemy.”
It was only ONCE that Moses gave into what we tend to do every time: he retaliated (Numbers 20). He yelled at the people and struck the Rock when God has specifically told him to speak to the Rock. The idea I get here is that Moses finally responded as is natural: he lashed out. I am sure he might have liked to strike a few people but the Rock had to do. In so doing, he dishonored God. God had always corrected the rebels; God had shown over and over that he had Moses’ back. Moses was not OK with that THIS time; he wanted his own vengeance. He wanted his own rant. Whenever we want our “pound of flesh”, it actually costs US more. Plus we end up on God’s Discipline List. Moses lost the Promised Land because this time he did not want to keep his cool. His stoop to the level of the rebels caused him fall right in with their ranks.
“Vengeance is mine; I will repay, says the Lord.” Thus when I take vengeance into my own hands, I show that I am not trusting that God will do an adequate job or maybe I doubt He will do it soon enough to suit me. My stoop to their level will result in my fall from grace. What I thought was just my rightful “stoop” has resulted in my crashing “fall”.
NOT WORTH IT!
Pastor Stephen Willoughby
Pastor Steve grew up in Columbia,South America, where his parents served as missionaries for 25 years. After graduating from Capital Bible Seminary, he was invited to serve as Assistant Pastor at FBCP. He has served in that capacity for twenty years before taking on the position of Senior Pastor.