Monday, September 24, 2012

Monday's Resolution {Never Take Revenge}

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We are picking apart Jonathan Edward's 70 Resolutions, one week and one resolution at a time. Don't forget to start where he did- "Being sensible that I am unable to do anything without God's help, I do humbly entreat Him by His grace to enable me to keep these Resolutions, so far as they are agreeable to His will, for Christ's sake."
14. Resolved, never to do anything out of revenge. 

I've had revenge on my mind for the last week. I promise that it was not in any sinister way :)!

I just finished listening to the audiobook version of Henry James' The American. If you're unfamiliar with the story, I do not want to ruin it for you, so I won't say much. Only that it culminates with the hero seeking his revenge on would-be in-laws who've ruined his happiness. True to Henry James' typical fashion, it ends leaving the reader depressed about the hopeless and miserable circumstances which the main characters are left in.

In our day-to-day lives we are unlikely to be tempted by great schemes of revenge found in classical novels or plays (think The Count of Monte Cristo, or Hamlet). Human nature, however, does have a definite, vanilla-flavored bent for holding grudges and getting back at offending parties. 

When I read Resolution #14 I tried to think about what it looks like in my life. Perhaps I don't actively attack someone who's done me wrong, but I certainly don't jump at opportunities to be charitable to them. I may outwardly seem to move on, but I find it is oh so easy to hang onto grudges, like little pebbles in my fist, waiting to be flung.

To some degree or another, this vicious tendency lurks in everyone. Our only hope is to look to Christ, the God Man who forgave us all of our iniquities. He alone had the right to be angry and vengeful, as He was perfectly righteous and never did anything wrong to anyone. Yet instead He graciously pardons sinners, and shows loving mercy to His enemies.

"but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." 
Romans 5:8

"For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses." 
Matthew 6:14-15.

There's a thought to sober us when we're tempted to hold a grudge. God takes our unwillingness to forgive so seriously that He withholds forgiveness from the offender. How ungrateful it would be of us to withhold forgiveness from others, when Christ has lovingly forgiven us our countless sins against Him.

At the same time we can remember that no one is getting away with anything. One day everyone will stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ. When you are tempted to grow bitter over grievous sins that have hurt you deeply, do not forget that “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord” (Romans 12:19).

Either a person's sins are forgiven by Christ, or they will be punished by Christ someday. Our lot is not to rejoice in or plan their punishment. Rather it is to love our enemies, do good to those who hate us, and trust our Heavenly Father with the rest.

True freedom comes when we never take revenge or harbor bitterness, but instead leave vengeance and judgment to the Lord.

What Scripture passages have helped you the most with  forgiving others?

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