“The library is no place to play the Payback Game!” I told a normally sweet 4th grader the other day. She and another student had been running and hiding behind shelves and lunging at each other, trying to hit each other because the other one had hit them. Another student, an innocent bystander, was rubbing his shoulder because he had gotten slammed into a bookshelf in the process.
Besides the fact that the “game” broke every aspect of the school-wide rules of being “Safe, Responsible, and Respectful,” I explained to the two kids involved that it was a lose-lose type of game in the first place.
“The problem with the ‘Payback Game,'” I said, “Is that there’s no end to it. Someone always has to get even. No one ever considers the game finished, or won. There’s always one more payback to do.
Anyone watching the news these days will see lots of payback “games.” Gangs pay back gangs. Disenfranchised employees pay back employers. Estranged family members pay back family members. Misled individuals pay back Jewish organizations for supposed wrongs. Angry, isolated teens pay back teachers and fellow students. Countries pay back countries. All too often, these “games” involve guns and innocent bystanders lying in pools of blood.
What a brilliant, generous God we have, who came up with a way to end all “payback.” The Apostle Paul said, in a letter to the Roman people, “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord. On the contrary: ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but over come evil with good. (Romans 12:17-21).
Like Jesus said on the cross, “It is finished.” Game over!