In the courtroom, when a defendant makes the risky decision to represent themselves, it’s referred to as proceeding pro se, which is a Latin phrase meaning, “for oneself.” In criminal cases, this is highly discouraged, as the average person knows little about the law and would be easily overwhelmed by a seasoned lawyer. In the conflicts of everyday life, did you know God also discourages us from representing ourselves?
Peter writes of Jesus, “When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.” (1 Peter 2:23) Even Jesus Christ, the only Son of the living God, didn’t proceed pro se and fight for his own self-interest. Jesus didn’t need to fight because he owned the truth that Moses spoke to Israel when their backs were against the Red Sea with the Egyptian army bearing down. “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.” (Exodus 14:13-14) Jesus also owned the truth David proclaimed when facing Goliath. “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” (1 Samuel 17:37) When we know that an all-powerful, all-loving, and all-wise God fights for us, we no longer need to right every wrong done to us.
“Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will act.” (Psalm 37:4-5) This beautiful Scripture features a very important reality: it’s our job to love and serve God, not to fight and scrap for every little blessing – God provides that. Paul the apostle reminds us, “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’” (Romans 12:19) It’s hard to remain patient in very trying times, waiting for God to take care of a situation. Yet, we know, “…let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.” (1 Peter 4:19)
To proceed pro se, to avenge ourselves and right all the wrongs done to us, we have to be unforgiving and even downright mean. After all, the world says, “Nice guys finish last.” However, Scripture refutes this, saying, “Treasures gained by wickedness do not profit, but righteousness delivers from death.” (Proverbs 10:2) Perhaps we can receive some benefit from revenge, but it won’t be by God’s hand. “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights…” (James 1:17) Let’s wait for God’s perfect gifts and refuse to settle for the ill-gotten gain of avenging ourselves.
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