Forgiveness is one of the toughest things I have tried to instill in my children. I can remember bending over backwards to get one of our daughters to say the words, “I’m sorry.” She may have taken a bite out of a nearby toddler or triumphed over her monarchy rule of toyland and repeatedly, my husband and I would coax her to say these simple words, “I’m sorry.” We would bribe her with candy or threaten tough discipline. She fought it tooth and nail and would dig her lil’ heels into the ground until skidmarks were left on the driveway. Seriously, why is admitting you are wrong so difficult for a toddler?
Forgiveness gets stepped up a notch when someone else first wrongs you. When you feel like you have every right to be mad or angry at them. You know they don’t deserve forgiveness. They certainly haven’t earned it. Jacob is a great example of someone who suffered through difficulty without complaining. He worked 14 years for the hand of the love of his life, Rachel, to marry. He patiently continued to work for his conniving father-in-law, Laban, another six years to earn his herd of sheep. It wasn’t easy. He worked overtime, despite the grueling heat and bitter cold. His wages were adjusted 10x. And get this, the one who treated him so unfairly was now considered “family.” He had to forego sheep from his own flock to repay for the loss of stolen ones. Through all of this, he never complained. He exhibited tremendous patience. Shockingly, there is no record of anger or malice towards Laban.
People, even those who persecute us, are not things, and we best represent our Father by not being hasty and rash. “Be wise as serpents and harmless as doves,” Jesus says (Matthew 10:16). It is the soft answer that turns away wrath (Proverbs 15:1). James writes, “The tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity” (James 3:6). Jesus left retaliation to the Father.
I Thessalonians 5:15 (NIV) “Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else.
You’ve heard it said before: “Two wrongs do not make a right.” Despite this, due to our impatience, we often say or do something in retaliation! Then where are we? Typically, we are further down in the cellar than when we began. And it may be a big climb to find our way out.
We should not take vengeance. We’ve gotta stop trying to do God’s job. He’ll take care of the hard stuff. We just need to hand it over to Him.
“Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.” Romans 12:19
“But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” Matthew 5:39-45
Consistently we are instructed to never seek revenge or vengeance on our own. Rather, Jesus urges us to be willing to give the antagonistic person something else-something that might actually diffuse the situation-and perhaps even provide some small example that will promote her eternal welfare.
This in no way implies weakness. It takes a much bigger person to just walk away and diffuse the argument. It also doesn’t mean you are in total agreement about the situation. You are choosing the higher road. You are choosing not to enter into a fight because you have the other person’s best interest in sight. You love them more than you love yourself. Christ tells us to love our enemies, meaning we should bestow favor upon them. A great example of this is speaking well of others, extending kindness to them or blessing them in an unexpected way.
I realize these real life situations may be incredibly challenging. If we want to come out ahead, we serve ourselves well to give the situation, the pain, the anger, bitterness and resentment entirely over to God. Allow God to deal with the judgement, discipline and punishment of the crime. We do not need to figure out how to resolve the conflict, but rather our task is to hand it completely over to God.