In the comedy, “The Three Stooges,” there is a scene where Curly and Moe are angry with each other. The smaller of the two men always comes out being the loser, so Curly says, “I’m going to strap a stick of dynamite to my chest, so the next time he hits me, he’ll get blown up!” Sure! That’s what happens when you plot revenge on someone who has hurt you. Revenge not only destroys your enemy, it destroys you at the same time.
There is a better way, the example of Him who cried out, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). But you may say, “Yes, but I’m not Jesus Christ.” You are confronted with three options: (1) Revenge–an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. That’s biblical, some say. You may think it is, but it is not really. When God gave the law which was to govern Israel, He instructed that punishment should never be greater than the crime itself, something which pagan cultures practiced–and still do, for that matter.
No; rule out revenge. It never brings satisfaction.
Repression is the second option. Try to forget the issue which troubles you. This never works! Repression is like a tea kettle which is over a fire of coals. It may take a while, but eventually the water is going to boil. I think of repression as “gunny sacking!” You don’t know what a gunny sack is? Gunny sacks are made of burlap, a crude but strong material designed to hold potatoes and onions. Storing injustices only delays dealing with them.
The answer is forgiveness, which alone brings a permanent solution to wrongdoing. For a couple of minutes, let’s consider what forgiveness is not, in light of our culture today. First–it is not weakness, something to be scorned. It is not weakness, it is wisdom. Anyone can hold a grudge. Anyone can plot revenge. But it takes strength of character to forgive.
Second, forgiveness is not a feeling, an emotion which leads you to forgive someone. Seldom does anyone ever feel like forgiving a person who has hurt them. Our natural instinct is to demand that the person suffer pain and remorse for bringing us pain. A woman who understood what it is to be a victim, Corrie ten Boom, wrote, “Forgiveness is not an emotion…. Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart.” And how did Corrie learn this? Corrie was Dutch by birth, and a Christian by faith. During World War 2, when she was sent to the women’s concentration camp at Ravensbruck, she learned firsthand of the cruelties of man’s basest instincts. She also learned that to forgive someone frees you of the same sickness which is destroying your enemy.
Third, forgiveness is not forgetting. If someone takes a hot poker and presses it to your skin, the scar will probably be there until your death, but forgiveness removes the sting and brings healing.
And what is forgiveness? In simple terms, forgiveness means I give up my right to hurt you because you hurt me. No matter how wonderful a person you are, no matter how much you and your mate love each other, no matter how loving and kind you are, sooner or later you are going to hurt someone you love. We are imperfect. We make mistakes. We fail–both willingly and ignorantly.
Forgiveness is God’s antidote to the sickness of sin which tears our lives apart. It is the healing which humanity desperately needs.
Resource Reading: Colossians 3:1-17
Text: Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. Colossians 3:13
GUIDELINES with Harold Sala – October 17, 2017