God On Film 2010 part 2
The A-Team: Doing Right When You've Been Done Wrong
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
July 11, 2010



“In 1972, a crack commando unit was sent to prison by a military court for a crime they didn’t commit. These men promptly escaped from a maximum-security stockade to the Los Angeles underground. Today, still wanted by the government, they survive as soldiers of fortune. If you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can find them, maybe you can hire… the A-Team.”

If you were alive in the 80s, chances are you remember those words as the opening for the classic TV show, “The A-Team.” These four soldiers, wrongfully accused and imprisoned for a crime they didn’t commit, escaped from custody and pursued a career of helping people who needed their unique skill set.

There was John “Hannibal” Smith, a master-planner as well as a master of disguise, played by George Peppard. There was Templeton “Faceman” Peck, the cavalier, suave and resourceful ladies’ man played by Dirk Benedict, who I also remember fondly as Starbuck in the original Battlestar Galactica. Then there was the Mohawk sporting B.A. (Bad Attitude) Baracus, the most popular and iconic character in the series played by Mr. T… tough on the outside but with a heart of gold (to go with all his gold chains). And rounding out the four was Howling Mad Murdock, clinically insane, but a top rank pilot played by Dwight Schultz, who went on to Star Trek fame as Lt. Barclay.

That’s the classic TV series that I watched as a teenager, and it has just recently been released as a feature film with all new actors.

Why do I mention The A-Team you ask? Because all through the month of July, we’re taking a look at some of the blockbuster movies that are out this summer. We started last week with Toy Story 3, next week will be the new Twilight movie, and today we’re taking a look at The A-Team. How many of you either watched the original TV show or have seen the new movie?

You know, the remarkable thing about The A-Team… especially in the TV series? It’s how these four people endured the injustice of being falsely accused and imprisoned, but yet chose to do the right thing. I mean, they could have been out for revenge, they could have become angry and bitter and disillusioned, they could have wallowed in self-pity… they could have done all of that. But instead, they chose to respond by going around helping people.

What do you do when you’ve been done wrong? When someone mistreats you, how should you treat them? When someone does evil to you, how should you respond? When someone makes a mistake that costs you thousands of dollars… when your employer fires you or give a coworker that promotion you deserve… when your neighbour’s dog keeps you up all night every night… when a friend gossips about you, betrays you, or stabs you in the back… what do you do when you’ve been done wrong?

That’s what we’re talking about this morning. And you don’t have to look very far in the teachings of Christ, or the teachings of Paul, or the wisdom of the Proverbs before you come across some passage which instructs you in how to treat people who don’t treat you well. So here’s the question…


How Do I Do Right When I’ve Been Done Wrong?

1.     Watch what I say

You know, one of the things about The A-Team – not the movie, but the old TV show – is that no one ever got hurt. Guns a’blazin’, bombs and grenades, huge explosions, driving through fences and walls… and nobody ever got hurt! To the point that it became a joke. Here… take a look at the opening sequence.

[VIDEO – Show portions of the opening credits for The A-Team (TV series)]

Wouldn’t it be great if life worked like that? You know… people fire at you, you fire back, and no one ever gets hurt? But that’s not reality, is it? Reality is, we get hurt and we get hurt a lot. And the truth is, hurt people hurt people. And so when we get wounded, we want to strike back. We want to do to them what they’ve done to us.

And perhaps the quickest and easiest way for us to try to get our revenge is to strike back with our tongues. With our words.

“Sticks and stones may break my bones but names can never hurt me.” What a crock! Because words do hurt. Your tongue can be a deadly weapon.

Proverbs 13:3 (MSG)
Careful words make for a careful life; careless talk may ruin everything.

So watch what you say. If someone insults you or calls you a name or slanders you in some way, don’t lash back at them. Control yourself. Don’t respond the same way they’re treating you. Be above that. As Jenna read for us earlier…

James 1:26 (NLT)
If you claim to be religious but don't control your tongue, you are just fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless.

So James wrote that we should watch what we say. We should control our tongue. But you know what? It’s easier said than done. In fact, James acknowledges that a couple chapters later…

James 3:7-10 (NLT)
People can tame all kinds of animals, birds, reptiles, and fish, but no one can tame the tongue. It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison. Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God. And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right!

I think we instinctively lash out at whoever attacks us. If someone throws an insult at us, we throw one right on back. If someone cuts us off in traffic, it can be a good thing they can’t hear us. If someone cheats us out of some money, it doesn’t take long before we’re telling everyone else what they’ve done to us. It’s our basic human nature to want to lash out and try to hurt them they way they’ve hurt us. And James say, “this is not right!”

I know that when I’ve been hurt, or when I feel like someone has done me wrong, I have to fight the urge to gossip about them and tear them down in my conversations. And when it becomes really hard is when what they’ve said or done reflects on me and I feel like I need to defend myself to other people. Even then, or especially then, I need to be careful what I say.

But how do you overcome that instinct to attack or that compulsion for revenge? I don’t think you can. Oh, I think you can try… and you should try… to control your tongue and watch what you say. That’s important, and you’ll have some success. But you’ll still slip up a lot more than you want to admit. I don’t think you can fully rise above it… until you allow God to transform your life.

We talk about that a lot here at Sunrise… life transformation. But that’s a core part of our message, isn’t it? How God wants to take you as you are and transform you into the person you were meant to be. And so we look at verses like…

Romans 12:2 (NLT)
Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.

2 Corinthians 5:17 (NLT)
…Anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!

That’s the message we have… that God can transform us into brand new people with a brand new life. I think that’s the message that the world needs to hear. I think that’s the message each one of us needs to understand and experience for ourselves. God can make us new.

That old self that enslaved to sin… gone. That instinct to react violently with our words or actions… gone. That self-absorbed self-centered yet dissatisfying ambition in life… gone. Instead, we’re made new… we’re set free from the grip of sin, we learn self-control and self-discipline… we learn to love others fully and purely… we discover new meaning and new purpose in life… given to us by God Himself and fueled with compassion.

Understand, when you know Jesus, when you begin to submit yourself to Him and to the work of the Holy Spirit in your life, you will be transformed. And no, it’s not all going to be completed instantly. God is going to take you through a process of transformation. But more and more each day, your character will reflect His character. You will become more Christ-like. Your old self will be left in the past and you will become a brand new person. And as He promises in His Word…

Philippians 1:6 (NLT)
And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.

Okay, so if you want to do right when you’ve been done wrong, you need to first of all watch what you say. You’ve got to control your tongue. And ultimately what that comes down to is allowing God to transform you, enabling to rein it in.


2.    Be quick to forgive

An eye for an eye and the whole world goes blind, right?

I don’t know if this is really reflective of The A-Team or not, but I get the sense that they were more interested in clearing their names than they were in getting revenge. I don’t think that they were consumed with getting even. They had been done wrong, but they were not motivated by the prospect of settling the score.

Nineteenth century Russia was a nation in turmoil. But that was nothing new. The nation had actually been going through a period of unrest for a couple hundred years. But finally it seemed to be coming to a head. On the one hand, there was the Russian nobility who resisted any change. On the other, there were a growing number of radicals who wanted, well, radical change. And stuck in the middle was Alexander II, the Tzar of Russia.

Throughout the period of His reign, Alexander did bring about a number of reforms. But those reforms fell far short of what the radicals were looking for, so they decided they would assassinate the Tsar using terrorist means. We tend to think terrorism is a new thing, but it’s been around for a long, long time.

So in April of 1879, the first attempt was made. A man named Alexander Soloviev tried to assassinate Alexander II, but failed. He was captured and was executed along with 16 other men suspected of terrorism.

In November of the same year, Andrei Zhelyabov and Sophia Perovskaya of the terrorist organization going by the name of  the “People’s Will” decided to give it a try. They decided to use nitroglycerine to blow up the Tsar’s train. But they made a mistake, and blew up the wrong train.

Another attempt to kill the Tsar involved blowing up a bridge in St. Petersburg as the Tsar was crossing it, but that too was unsuccessful.

Take 4. It’s now February of 1880. This time, the People’s Will attempts to kill the Tsar by blowing up his dining room while he was eating. So the terrorists got some dynamite and constructed a mine, put it in the basement under the dining room and set it to go off at 6:30 during dinner. But the Tsar was expecting a guest that night who was running late, so no one was in the dining room at the time.

So the terrorists decided to try again. March 1, 1881. Alexander was travelling in a closed carriage on his way to the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg and was guarded by a number of soldiers and police officers. All along the way he was watched by members of the People’s Will. As the carriage approached a street corner, a signal was given and two terrorists threw bombs at the Tsar’s carriage. Of course, they missed and the bombs landed among the soldiers. Alexander was fine, but… he insisted on getting out to check on the injured men. And while he was standing with them, another terrorist threw another bomb and this time made contact. Alexander was killed instantly.

Which meant that the throne was handed down to his son. Any guesses what Alexander II named his son? Alexander III. Kind of reminds you of George Foreman, doesn’t it? With all his kids named George?

Well, it was under the rule of Alexander III that several of the terrorists were captured and were sentenced to be hanged. And think about it: This was really a strange situation. Alexander III was in a position to execute the people who assassinated his father. Reminds me of Mandy Patinkin in The Princess Bride:

“My name is Alexander. You killed my father. Prepared to die.”

Well, before the execution was carried out, Alexander III received a letter from Leo Tolstoy. You may recognize that name. Tolstoy was a Russian philosopher and author who wrote several classics, including War and Peace. In the letter, Tolstoy urged Alexander to have mercy on the men and forgive them for what they did. He didn’t try to justify what they had done, he simply pleaded for their lives. He wrote to the Tsar…

“…Your every step in the direction of forgiveness is a step towards good.”
~ Leo Tolstoy

He urged him to…

“Return good for evil, resist not evil, forgive everyone.”
~ Leo Tolstoy

Alexander III chose to ignore Tolstoy’s advice and allowed the execution to proceed. And the Russian society continued to be in turmoil over the next three and a half decades as the Communist Regime came to power.

I don’t know how things would have been different if Alexander had pardoned the people who conspired to kill his father. It’s interesting to think about it, though. Because forgiveness has a lot of power, and turning the other cheek can turn a life around.

I think Tolstoy had it right when he said…

“…Forgiveness brings supreme joy to the one who practices it.”
~ Leo Tolstoy

If you want to do right when you’ve been done wrong, you need to forgive. Take a look at what Jesus said…

Matthew 6:14-15 (NLT)
“If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

None of us is without fault. We’ve all hurt someone else, and we’ve all hurt God. We have all needed forgiveness at some time or other. But from that verse we just read, if we expect to be forgiven by God we’d better be willing to forgive the people who do us wrong.

You can even find this in what we call “The Lord’s Prayer.” If you know that prayer, then you’ll recognize this verse… from the New Living Translation…

Matthew 6:12 (NLT)
“…And forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us.”

Colossians 3:13 (NLT)
Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.

God offers you His forgiveness for free. But He expects you to pass that same kind of forgiveness on to others. If you’re going to do right when you’ve been done wrong, you need to forgive.

Oh, and don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying that forgiving is easy. In fact, it can be the hardest thing you’ve ever had to do. And for a time, you may have to constantly remind yourself that you are forgiving them. It can be a process, and it can be difficult. Forgiving is not the easy way out. But it is the best way. If you’re going to do right when you’ve been done wrong, you need to forgive.


3.    Respond with kindness

Don’t plot your revenge. Don’t watch in eager anticipation for their downfall. Instead, treat them well. Respond with kindness.

Look at this passage from Matthew 5…

Matthew 5:38-41 (NLT)
“You have heard the law that says the punishment must match the injury: ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say, do not resist an evil person! If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also. If you are sued in court and your shirt is taken from you, give your coat, too. If a soldier demands that you carry his gear for a mile, carry it two miles.”

From what I understand, in Roman society a soldier could order a non-Roman to carry his gear for a distance of one mile and the person had to do it. He didn’t have to go one step further, but he would have to carry the gear for one full mile. So what Jesus is saying is go that one mile without complaining and then go ahead and carry their stuff beyond the requirement of the law. In fact, this is where the phrase “going the extra mile” comes from.

Jesus went on to say…

Matthew 5:43-47 (NLT)
“You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else?”

If God really makes a difference in your life, it’s going to be evident in the way you treat the people who treat you poorly. The people who treat you wrong. The people you might even consider to be your enemies.

Because it’s easy to be nice to the people who treat you well. And it’s easy to brag up your friends. But if you’re able to show love and compassion and forgiveness and generosity for even your greatest enemy, and if you can honestly and sincerely wish them well, it’s a pretty God sign that God’s been working in your life.

How you respond speaks to your character, not theirs. You understand that? How you respond speaks to your character, not theirs.


So what that means is, just because you’ve been treated wrong doesn’t mean that you need to treat them wrong in return. You can rise above that. Oh, you might be disappointed. You might need time to heal. And they may need to earn your trust again.

But don’t hold on to grudges. Don’t seek vengeance. Don’t tear them down in your conversations with them or with others.

Instead, be gracious. Be forgiving. Be better than that. Through the presence and the power of the Holy Spirit in your life, you can do it. You can do right even when you’ve been done wrong.

 

 

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