Defending oneself or one’s interests according to capability seems to be a natural human reaction. We also learn that similar struggles are continually going on in the animal world.
Unfortunately such fighting among men at times has led to continuous circles of retaliation. Humankind has experienced a sad history of cruelty.
Men at times have taken revenge beyond measure. In many occasions they allowed to be governed by an inclination to cruelly humiliate others and to kill.
In personal relationships a tendency to overreact has caused much heartbreak and even despair. What to do when mutual trust has been quenched? How to amend for irreparable damage that has been caused?
Many years ago I read a story from religious India. Some man apparently was so concerned about his tendency to beat others that he had his arms bound. By that he was hoping to improve his own attitude and behaviour.
A national Christian met this individual and reported of a conversation. This Christian going about in the apparel of an Indian sage said something provocative to the man who had his arms bound for considerable time. Yet it seemed this person would have resorted to beating had he been able to do so. The Christian concluded that this extreme measure of self-punishment and self-improvement had been without real effect. Human nature could not be changed thereby.
Ascetic efforts are of limited effect and of limited value. This is what St. Paul was trying to say in 1 Corinthians 13:3: “And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.” (KJV).
In Romans chapter 7 Paul also describes a human tendency to behave in contrast to better knowledge. At times we know what would be the right thing to do yet still an inclination derived from lower instincts has its sway over us.
This leads the apostle to the exclamation: “O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (Romans 7:24/KJV). His answer was: “I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (7:25a/KJV).
Paul marvelled about the change in men that was possible as believers received the Holy Spirit into their hearts and as they learned to trust God even when facing inconveniences. (Romans 5:5/KJV).
Now in 1 Corinthians 13 Paul points to the need for this love of God to permeate our lives. Even good things such as church activities and self-denial are of only limited value if not governed by the love a believer can receive from God.