You Asked for It Part 3
How to Respond When Mistreated
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
August 17, 2003


Main Passage: Romans 12:9-21 (NLT)


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 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 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.

Alexander II was succeeded by his son, Alexander III. It was under his rule that several of the terrorists were captured and were sentenced to be hanged. This was really a strange situation: he was in a position to execute the people who assassinated his father. For those of you who enjoyed Mandy Patinkin in The Princess Bride:

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

Before the execution, though, 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.

When someone mistreats you, how should you treat them? When someone does evil to you, how should you respond? Tolstoy had a lot to say about this, and so does the Bible. 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.

In fact, Chris read one of those passages earlier for us from the book of Romans 12. Check out these verses:

Romans 12:17 (NLT)
Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honourable.

Romans 12:21 (NLT)
Don't let evil get the best of you, but conquer evil by doing good.

So what I want to do here this morning is discuss how we should respond to the person who does evil to us and why it’s important to treat them that way.


How to Respond When Someone Treats You Wrong:


1. Control your tongue

Proverbs 13:3 (NLT)
Those who control their tongue will have a long life; a quick retort can ruin everything.

Watch what you say. If someone insults you or calls you a name or slanders you in some way, don’t lash out at them. Control yourself. Don’t respond the same way they’re treating you. Be above that.

James 1:26-27 (NLT)
If you claim to be religious but don't control your tongue, you are just fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless. Pure and lasting religion in the sight of God our Father means that we must care for orphans and widows in their troubles, and refuse to let the world corrupt us.

So James wrote that we should control our tongue. But you know what? It’s easier said than done. In fact, James acknowledges that in chapter 3…

James 3:7-10 (NLT)
People can tame all kinds of animals and birds and reptiles and fish, but no one can tame the tongue. It is an uncontrollable evil, full of deadly poison. Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it breaks out into curses against 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!”

But how do you control it? How can you overcome that instinct to attack or that compulsion for revenge? I don’t think you can. 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. We’ve looked at verses like…

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

2 Corinthians 5:16-17 (NLT)
So we have stopped evaluating others by what the world thinks about them. Once I mistakenly thought of Christ that way, as though he were merely a human being. How differently I think about him now! What this means is that those who become Christians become new persons. They are not the same anymore, for the old life is gone. A new life has begun!


2. Guard your attitude

If you want to find out how well you guard your attitude, try golf. That’ll test you.

Really though, I’m pretty good at controlling my tongue. I don’t tend to lash out at people verbally and I don’t tear them down behind their back. But if that person with 22 items ahead of me in the express checkout at Sobeys knew what I was thinking about them…

I have had to check my attitude sometimes. I don’t want to look down on people. I don’t want to be judgemental toward them. I don’t want to have an attitude of superiority. But if someone mistreats me I need to be careful not to develop a real attitude against them or think that I’m better than them. Because if I allow that to happen, I really rule out any chance of reconciliation. I won’t be open to forgiving them, I’ll always cast them in a negative light, and the situation will never improve. So I need to guard my attitude.

Romans 15:5 (NLT)
May God, who gives this patience and encouragement, help you live in complete harmony with each other—each with the attitude of Christ Jesus toward the other.


3. Be willing to forgive

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

Being willing to forgive is extremely important. Take a look at this…

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.

Many of you may be familiar with the Lord’s Prayer. Here it is directly out of the book of Matthew in the New Living Translation… probably a little different than the way you first learned it. Say it with me…

Matthew 6:9-13 (NLT)
Our Father in heaven, may your name be honoured.
May your Kingdom come soon. May your will be done here on earth, just as it is in heaven.
Give us our food for today, and forgive us our sins, just as we have forgiven those who have sinned against us.
And don't let us yield to temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.

Verse 12 is included in your notes. I want you to do something. Take your pen and underline the words “just as we have forgiven”.

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

Listen. God offers you His forgiveness for free. But don’t expect to receive His forgiveness if you’re not willing to pass it on to others who need your forgiveness.

Colossians 3:12-13 (NLT)
Since God chose you to be the holy people whom he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. You must make allowance for each other's faults and forgive the person who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.


4. Treat the wrongdoer well

Don’t plot your revenge. Don’t watch in eager anticipation for their downfall. Treat them well. End the cycle of evil.

Proverbs 25:21-22 (NLT)
If your enemies are hungry, give them food to eat. If they are thirsty, give them water to drink. You will heap burning coals on their heads, and the LORD will reward you.

I’ll tell you, in our culture it’s something completely unexpected. People just don’t do nice things for their enemies. We either want to get even, or we want to avoid them altogether. But we certainly don’t want to take them out for pizza. But that’s exactly what this verse tells us to do! Okay, it doesn’t say pizza, but you get the idea. We’re supposed to treat the people who mistreat us well.

If we do that, what’s going to happen?


(heap burning coals (explain), God will reward you…)

If you’re able to treat a person well despite the fact that they’ve treated you poorly, you can take away their power. If they do something to hurt you, you can nullify that evil by a positive response. Plus, it’ll keep you from becoming bitter and make you a whole lot more fun to know.

Look at this passage from Matthew 5…

Matthew 5:38-41 (NLT)
"You have heard that the law of Moses says, `If an eye is injured, injure the eye of the person who did it. If a tooth gets knocked out, knock out the tooth of the person who did it.' But I say, don't resist an evil person! If you are slapped on the right cheek, turn the other, too. If you are ordered to 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.

I don’t know if you’re aware of this or not, but 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.

Let’s go a little further in Jesus words in Matthew 5…

Matthew 5:43-48 (NLT)
“You have heard that the law of Moses says, ‘Love your neighbour’ 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 on the unjust, too. If you love only those who love you, what good is that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that. But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.”

If your relationship with 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. 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 the person you may even consider an enemy, and you can honestly and truly 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.

Just quickly as we finish up, let me outline for you four benefits of a positive response to the people who mistreat you:


Four Benefits of a Positive Response:


A. It’s good for your physical and spiritual health

We read earlier that God’s forgiveness for you is dependent on your willingness to forgive others. An unforgiving spirit is going to hold His forgiveness back, it’s going to limit your own spiritual growth, and it will hold you in bondage. On the other hand, if you forgive others you’ll be in a position to receive God’s forgiveness, it will spur on your spiritual growth and development, and you won’t be bound by that moment in the past when someone did you wrong… you’ll be able to move beyond it. That’s how it’s good for you spiritually.

But I mentioned that it’s also good for you physically. How?


(ulcers, stress, tension, restlessness, insomnia, bitterness, peace of mind…)


B. It stops the cycle of evil

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

Speaking of going blind, it was quite the blackout this week, eh? 50 million people lost their electricity this week in Ontario and the Northeastern US. Right now, it looks like they’ve traced the problem back to the failure of three transmission lines in Ohio. But it’ll probably be a while before we hear anything definite. But this blackout was huge. It covered an area of 2400 square miles, shutting down 100 power plants including 22 nuclear plants.

Here’s a map of the area affected (PowerPoint).

And here’s a picture of the area from outer-space before… and after. (PowerPoint)

You know what I found out? There was a 700 megawatt surge that hit New Brunswick that day which tripped the appropriate breakers and sealed off the provinces generators from the grid. Otherwise, New Brunswick would have been part of the blackout. And since PEI buys most of its power from New Brunswick, we would have been affected, too.

But those breakers broke the cycle of power failures and kept New Brunswick and us out of the dark. When you treat someone right, despite how they treat you, you break the cycle of evil. You stop it dead in its tracks.


C. It could lead them to God

We looked at these verses earlier…

Proverbs 25:21-22 (NLT)
If your enemies are hungry, give them food to eat. If they are thirsty, give them water to drink. You will heap burning coals on their heads, and the LORD will reward you.

This whole thing of heaping “burning coals on their heads” means that they become convicted, they’re made aware of what they’re doing, they become aware of something different about you (the presence of God), they may become award of their need of God, and they may decide that they want to know God, too.

It’s not going to happen every time, but it’s certainly a possibility. Remember, in whatever situation you are in, you represent Jesus. Treat people the way He would treat them. Which leads us into letter D…


D. It follows the example of Jesus

As a race, we rebelled against God. We hurt Him and rejected Him. And because of our rebellion against our Creator, we deserved the sentence of death. But because God loved us so much, he became a man… Jesus… and took the punishment for us and allowed Himself to be nailed to the cross.

He suffered great pain and torture at the hands of humans and He died on a cross that we nailed Him to. Thankfully, He rose from the dead, and despite what we did to Him He chooses to forgive us still.

If God can forgive us for nailing Him to that cross, and if He can forgive you and can forgive me for all the times we’ve rebelled against Him, surely we can forgive the person who took our parking spot.

Really what it comes down to is this: we need to follow the Golden Rule. What’s that?


Here it is in the NIV…

Matthew 7:12 (NLT)
“Do for others what you would like them to do for you. This is a summary of all that is taught in the law and the prophets.”

Let’s pray.




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