Wednesday, July 31, 2013
REVENGE AND FORGIVENESS
Two Graves, Jamestown, NC
If you’ve ever been wronged, either physically and/or emotionally, I suspect forgiveness isn’t top of mind for an immediate response. Emotions are on high alert and adrenaline is coursing through our veins at record speeds. Our face is flushed and the blood veins in our neck are pulsing. The sensation can be even more intense if the one who wrongs us is someone we are close to. This might explain our human fascination for revenge movies and the projected satisfaction we seem to receive when the bad guys get their just dues at the hand of the wronged person. Bad guys do need to be brought to justice, but we can personally get into a lot of trouble ourselves if we take revenge on the perpetrators. Perhaps we’re not in a position to do that, but we’re still in a position to confront them later. Do we choose to withhold forgiveness even though that holding on is destroying us internally? A wise saying from Leviticus 24:20 reminds us that if we seek revenge, we should dig two graves. Another way of looking at this is to consider the thought that this perp still has control of your life—he’s essentially living rent free in your mind.
There would seem to be a fine line between revenge and justice. Many folks who take justice into their own hands are practicing revenge. The objects of their anger may very well deserve the punishment they receive. But a civilized society needs lawful order to be successful. When we consider the big picture, I wonder if the Great Flood that destroyed all mankind except Noah’s family could have possibly been an act of revenge. The human race had used its free will to destructively turn away from their creator God. If that was to be the end result with no remorse or repentance, then why continue to attempt a relationship? However, that was a rather extreme consequence and almost eliminated the grand experiment with a promise to never try that approach again. Later, God chose to dramatically demonstrate His love for all mankind by sacrificing himself for our forgiveness. The cross was much more impactful and has somewhat sustained us for the past two thousand years, although we still have not come anywhere close to a Kingdom of God on earth.
It’s been said that an expression of sincere love manifests itself when one willingly sacrifices something of themselves. It may take the form of time, resources or self. Our creator God sacrificed Himself in the form of the “word become flesh” to obtain forgiveness for all mankind. And we have learned that while revenge extracts fearful influence through power and control, sacrificial love expended to help and uplift others wins people’s hearts and provides an unselfish joy of purpose.