Posts Tagged ‘revenge’

2 Samuel 3:22-30 (Part 2 of 2)
Joab Murders Abner

In my first marriage there was much trouble. There were very few good years and those were early on. I will admit that my first wife had a rough row to hoe when it came to life. Her dad was killed in a head-on collision that also left her mother in a wheelchair for the remainder of her life. Miraculously, Lisa and her brother survived with just a few broken bones and some bruises (and this was back in the day when there were no seat belts in the back seats of cars). Her mother raised a son and a daughter from a wheelchair and she did the best she could with the help of close-by family members. However, because of the way Lisa had to grow up, people always made exceptions for her behavior and she blamed all the problems in her life on the way she had to grow up. Then, two weeks before we got married, her brother was also killed in a single car accident in the wee hours of June 28, 1980.

With that backdrop and the blow of her brother dying just before we got married, it was not long before Lisa began abusing drugs and became increasingly violent toward me. Her drug use was even unknown to me for much of these years between 1980-1984. She sobered up for awhile when she became pregnant with our first child, Meghan. It was after Meghan was born that her abuse of prescription narcotics began again and reached heights where I was basically parenting alone and cleaning up both my wife’s literal and metaphorical messes. During her first rehab visit in 1987, she had an affair. I don’t want to say I am a saint or anything but I tried to keep the marriage together. I would like to say it is because I was a Christian man and was trying to redeem what was broken. However, the real truth of it was that I was 25 years old, a father of a two year old of which I would have been granted custody, and I was simply too afraid to handle all that responsibility myself when I, myself, was still a kid, so to speak. During the following year in 1988, Lisa had a run in with the law that she could only escape by going into rehab once again. This time, it was a twelve-step program and not the mental health hospital approach of the previous rehab. She came away from that second rehab clean and sober (which would last quite a few years). Our second daughter, Taylor, was born during this period of sobriety. However, with her addictive personality, she became addicted to purchasing things – whether we had the money or not. Back in those days, the early 90’s, checks were still in vogue and I was chasing her bad checks constantly because she was spending more money than we had. All of these factors left me disillusioned, bitter, angry, tired, alone, fed up, and just profoundly sad all the time. That led to many fights that further enforced my defeatist feelings about life. I was in a dark place emotionally and spiritually.

In these pre-salvation days of mine, even I thought divorce was not a viable option. Not because of the high ideals of God about marriage, but because I knew how Lisa would react to it. I also knew of my own internal fortitude that I could not stand up to the expected mental and emotional onslaught that I knew she would give me. I knew that she would use my kids against me. Meghan and Taylor were the reasons that I got up each day in this marriage. So, leaving them just was something I was afraid to do. Leaving them with Lisa, I knew that they would be poisoned against me. It was a price I was not willing to pay. I was a chicken plain and simple. I was not willing to stand up for myself nor was I willing to walk away from kids. In these pre-salvation days, what is the best answer in a situation like this. Well, it disgusts me to think about it now, but in those days I was a different person. I played the martyr real well and said I deserved it and, well, Lisa had previously had her own affair. It was now my turn. It was OK. God just wanted me to be happy, right? I deserved it, right? When I look back at it, the whole thing was revenge for all the hell that Lisa had put me through over the years of our marriage.

I would like to say that our marriage survived the two affairs, hers and mine, but it did not survive mine. It was the beginning of two to three years of physical violence, and emotional terrorism (at home, while I was at work, you name it) on the part of Lisa. Finally, it came to the point that I had to leave or someone was really, actually going to die in that relationship. It had gotten that bad. From that point forward, although I had removed myself from a violent home and a emotionally abusive home, the physical violence may have stopped by the terrorism did not. For three full years after we split up, there was constant emotional terrorism. She became so consumed by revenge that it affected the rest of her life.

Although the public nature and the intensity of the terrorism stopped when Lisa remarried some 3 ½ years after we split up, she remained bitter toward me for the rest of her life. It consumed her. To hate me was her reason for existence. You were either for her or against her. She was so consumed by hatred and revenge that it spread to other people in her life to the put that she and her second husband ended isolated and alone. It was in part, I think part of the reason that she died at the early age of 55 years old (now 3 years ago). I will never forgot thinking that revenge killed her.

It was that idea of revenge, mine toward Lisa (in the years before I came to Christ as my Savior and Lord) and the all-consuming revenge of Lisa toward me, that came to mind when I read this passage again this morning. Now, with that backdrop from my life, let us read this passage, 2 Samuel 3:22-30:

 

22 But just after David had sent Abner away in safety, Joab and some of David’s troops returned from a raid, bringing much plunder with them. 23 When Joab arrived, he was told that Abner had just been there visiting the king and had been sent away in safety.

24 Joab rushed to the king and demanded, “What have you done? What do you mean by letting Abner get away? 25 You know perfectly well that he came to spy on you and find out everything you’re doing!”

26 Joab then left David and sent messengers to catch up with Abner, asking him to return. They found him at the well of Sirah and brought him back, though David knew nothing about it. 27 When Abner arrived back at Hebron, Joab took him aside at the gateway as if to speak with him privately. But then he stabbed Abner in the stomach and killed him in revenge for killing his brother Asahel.

28 When David heard about it, he declared, “I vow by the Lord that I and my kingdom are forever innocent of this crime against Abner son of Ner. 29 Joab and his family are the guilty ones. May the family of Joab be cursed in every generation with a man who has open sores or leprosy[a] or who walks on crutches[b] or dies by the sword or begs for food!”

30 So Joab and his brother Abishai killed Abner because Abner had killed their brother Asahel at the battle of Gibeon.

In this passage, we see that Joab killed Abner in a rage of revenge. Seeking revenge will ruin your own peace of mind and create an environment of hatred that destroys everything in its path and increases the changes of a continuing tit for tat cycle of retaliation. I remember a movie called “The War” where kids fought over a tree fort and the fighting got so intense with their tit for tat violence toward one another that finally the tree fort ended up getting burned down to the ground. Nobody had anything then. Revenge is like that. It is like fire that consumes all the oxygen in its path.

Revenge is pride on a rampage. We take matters into our hands. We make ourselves God. We play God. We make it our god. Revenge can affect families for generations as we will see in the coming books in the Old Testament after 2 Samuel. The legacy of this murder extends in the book of 1 Kings (see 1 Kings 2:31-34). Revenge wins nothing but a temporary sense of victory and then we must prepare to receive retaliation.

As Christians, we must be the ones who stop the cycle of revenge. We must love those who hate us. We must pray for them. We must not take their attacks on us personally. We must take the high road and not respond in kind. We may through our prayers and our not responding in kind bring the other person to the table to resolve the issues once and for all and move on. We may not be buddy buddy with this person going forward but revenge gains nothing but a burnt fort. Revenge gains nothing but a burned out soul. Revenge belongs to the Lord. We must pray for the ones who seek revenge against us. We must love them as Jesus loved those who persecute them. Those who seek revenge are ruled by pride and not by God. Those who seek revenge should be looked on with eyes of sorrowful love. Retaliation and revenge only lead to an ever-widening circle of destruction that leaves us alone and isolated standing in our burned out tree fort.

Amen and Amen.

Judges 15:1-20 (Part 1 of 2)
Samson’s Vengeance on the Philistines

In the movie, Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan, released in 1982, Khan uttered what he called an old Klingon proverb, “Revenge is a dish best served cold.” It is actually earthly in origin and it means that revenge that is delayed, and executed well after the heat of anger has dissipated, is more satisfying than revenge taken as an immediate act of rage. It was first used by French author Eugène Sue in his novel, Memoirs of Matilda, which was translated into English by D. G. Osbourne and published in 1846 but did not gain traction in popular American culture until the movie, The Godfather, was released in 1972.

The idea of revenge is at the very nature of man. It is an emotion of pride. I must be avenged of a wrong done to me, whether it be perceived or real. There is a saying about revenge too is that when we seek revenge, we are allowing another person to “live rent free in our heads.” Revenge can consume us and destroy us and often the revenge that we seek does not satisfy us. We can get so wrapped up in revenge and hatred of another person that we end up consuming and destroying ourselves in the process. One of my favorite movies on the subject is the Kevin Costner movie, The War, with Elijah Wood as the central child character in the movie. Kevin Costner who plays Stephen Simmons in the movie is the returning Vietnam War vet who is dealing with what happened over there and detests anything to do with war, hatred, killing, etc. Elijah Woods plays his son in the movie and his character’s name is Stu. As the movie plays out, Kevin’s character’s kids are out to build the ultimate tree fort during their summer break from school back in the 1960s Vietnam Era. But, there are these other set of brothers, the Lipnickis, the low-life junkyard owner’s kids, are the antagonists in the movie. The action between these two families of kids escalates throughout the movie because Kevin Costner’s kids stole some things from the junkyard for their fort and it escalates into an all out “war” by the end of the movie. The fight becomes so great that during the final “battle” scene between the two families of kids that the tree house that the Simmons kids and their neighborhood buddies had worked so hard to build all summer long is set on fire. But the war goes on that day and the fight does not end until the tree house is completely consumed by the fire – and there is nothing left to fight for. It is good movie that is worth a watch on a Friday night. The points out that ever-escalating revenge always results in all out war and war consumes everything in its path and nobody wins.

I am reminded of that morality tale of a movie about kids and the fort and of my ex-wife when I think of how revenge can consume us and destroy us. She allowed her desire for revenge against me consume and destroy her to the point that she ended up lonely and alone with only her second husband as a person who would have anything to do with her. Revenge itself can become our god to the point that we worship the pain that another person caused us and it can lead us to burn up our treehouse in the process. Let’s read about Samson’s consuming desire for revenge in this passage, Judges 15:1-20:
15 Later on, during the wheat harvest, Samson took a young goat as a present to his wife. He said, “I’m going into my wife’s room to sleep with her,” but her father wouldn’t let him in.

2 “I truly thought you must hate her,” her father explained, “so I gave her in marriage to your best man. But look, her younger sister is even more beautiful than she is. Marry her instead.”

3 Samson said, “This time I cannot be blamed for everything I am going to do to you Philistines.” 4 Then he went out and caught 300 foxes. He tied their tails together in pairs, and he fastened a torch to each pair of tails. 5 Then he lit the torches and let the foxes run through the grain fields of the Philistines. He burned all their grain to the ground, including the sheaves and the uncut grain. He also destroyed their vineyards and olive groves.

6 “Who did this?” the Philistines demanded.

“Samson,” was the reply, “because his father-in-law from Timnah gave Samson’s wife to be married to his best man.” So the Philistines went and got the woman and her father and burned them to death.

7 “Because you did this,” Samson vowed, “I won’t rest until I take my revenge on you!” 8 So he attacked the Philistines with great fury and killed many of them. Then he went to live in a cave in the rock of Etam.

9 The Philistines retaliated by setting up camp in Judah and spreading out near the town of Lehi. 10 The men of Judah asked the Philistines, “Why are you attacking us?”

The Philistines replied, “We’ve come to capture Samson. We’ve come to pay him back for what he did to us.”

11 So 3,000 men of Judah went down to get Samson at the cave in the rock of Etam. They said to Samson, “Don’t you realize the Philistines rule over us? What are you doing to us?”

But Samson replied, “I only did to them what they did to me.”

12 But the men of Judah told him, “We have come to tie you up and hand you over to the Philistines.”

“All right,” Samson said. “But promise that you won’t kill me yourselves.”

13 “We will only tie you up and hand you over to the Philistines,” they replied. “We won’t kill you.” So they tied him up with two new ropes and brought him up from the rock.

14 As Samson arrived at Lehi, the Philistines came shouting in triumph. But the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon Samson, and he snapped the ropes on his arms as if they were burnt strands of flax, and they fell from his wrists. 15 Then he found the jawbone of a recently killed donkey. He picked it up and killed 1,000 Philistines with it. 16 Then Samson said,

“With the jawbone of a donkey,
I’ve piled them in heaps!
With the jawbone of a donkey,
I’ve killed a thousand men!”

17 When he finished his boasting, he threw away the jawbone; and the place was named Jawbone Hill.[a]

18 Samson was now very thirsty, and he cried out to the Lord, “You have accomplished this great victory by the strength of your servant. Must I now die of thirst and fall into the hands of these pagans?” 19 So God caused water to gush out of a hollow in the ground at Lehi, and Samson was revived as he drank. Then he named that place “The Spring of the One Who Cried Out,”[b] and it is still in Lehi to this day.

20 Samson judged Israel for twenty years during the period when the Philistines dominated the land.

Here, in this passage, we see Samson’s reply in Judges 15:11 tells the story of this chapter: “I only did to them what they did to me.” Revenge is an uncontrollable monster. Each act of retaliation brings another. The cycle of revenge can only be halted by forgiveness.

In the movie, The War, the only thing that broke the cycle of violence until Stu Simmons saves the youngest Lipnicki kid from drowning. In that situation, Stu saves the little boy’s life by not only drawing out of the water but also by performing CPR on him. It is only that act of kindness that changes everything. After that as the movie closes, the Lipnicki boys and the Simmons kids and their friends bury the hatchet. One person has to take the initiative to end the cycle of violence by either not retailiating or by some act of kindness. Revenge consumes and destroys. Revenge blinds us to normal decency. Revenge burns everything in its path and leaves nothing but charred, used up remains behind. The path of extinguished friendships of my ex-wife, God rest her soul (as she passed on back in 2015), is evidence of how hate can consume a person. When we let revenge consume us we end up with the charred remains of a tree fort that we call our life, but yet we won. We won but everything is destroyed. Forgiveness is the only thing that will end the battle and end the war. We must turn out perceived or actual wrongs over to the Lord and evict that person from living in our head rent free. We must not let revenge become the napalm of our lives. It consumes and burns up what was once a beautiful forest full of foliage and leaves only scorched earth in its wake.

Is there someone that you need to forgive? Is there someone you need to evict from their rent-free apartment in your head? Is there someone that you need to extend the same grace that you were given in Jesus Christ? Can you not offer the same grace that you have been given? How freeing will that day be when you offer the same grace that you have been given?

Amen and Amen.

Matthew 5:38-42
Eye for An Eye

The first thing, in our humanness, that we think of when we read this passage is a 1960s commune where everyone is sitting by the campfire and singing “Cum Bah Yah” with flowers in our hair, big fat bell bottoms, and transcendental meditation. The funny thing is though is that none of the 1960s communal living camps are around today. Why? Because of human nature! We like to think that we can be good enough. We like to think that we can live without competition and with the common good in mind. However, the basic Christian principle of our sin nature always played out in these experimental living arrangements of the counterculture of the 1960s. Man is competitive. Man will look out for himself, particularly when no one is looking. We will seek our own aims and desires to the detriment of others. We will take offense when someone is seeking their own desires and in so doing tramples on our desires. It is the nature of man. We are sin-filled creatures living in a fallen world. That’s why those social experiments of utopian societies always crashed and burned. With the best of intentions man can be good for a while but we cannot sustain it. People hurt people. We trample on each other’s rights and are surprised when others take offense. We want revenge when other people do. It dates back to the Genesis, to Cain and Abel. We want revenge. We want to knock someone else down for having knocked us down.The second thing I think of is what if Jesus had been selfish and taken Himself down from the cross (which He could have done – He is God after all) and decided to start kicking butt and takin’ names. The first thing is an experiment that failed because these experiments failed to take into account the sin nature of man. The second thing is Jesus coming down from the cross and kickin butt is the expectation that did not come true because Jesus did not have a sin nature. Jesus talks about utopia and vengeance here in a way that is unexpected. Jesus is calling us to a higher plane here. He is not calling for the end of letting the punishment fit the crime. He is calling for us to love one another in ways that are uncommon even in the best of the 1960s bygone era of utopian social experiments. And it is only through the grace of Jesus Christ that we can.

As we continue looking at the model Christian life through Jesus’ comments during the Sermon on the Mount, we now move to another base human emotion. Call it what you will – anger, jealousy, vengeance. Jesus speaks about the human needs to “get even” with those who have persecuted us in some way, real or perceived, when he says, in Matthew 5:38-42, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.” Many people might think that Jesus turning his nose up at Mosaic law, but remember, Jesus said earlier in this Sermon on the Mount that he did not come to abolish the Mosaic law but rather to fulfill it. In this light, what we must take from Jesus’ statement is that, just as he stated with his comments on murder, adultery, and integrity, he is saying, “why let things get to the point that we must have the equal justice of an ‘eye for an eye’ boundary set out in Mosaic law”? So, the timeless truth that comes from this passage of Scripture is “Love has no pride”.

Many people think this passage of Scripture is espousing pacifism and simply accepting the status quo but that is not what Jesus is saying at all. Jesus wants to fight injustice and to right the wrongs of the world but in contradiction to the world view, he want us to do it through love. He wants us to love those who pour out injustice just as he would. Just as Martin Luther King brought change without violence or retribution, Just as Gandhi freed India from British rule without firing a shot, all permanent change in this world comes only from loving our enemies into seeing the way of Jesus Christ. Have you seen throughout history of one man or group of men or nations imposing its will on others through force and confrontational politics only leads to further confrontation (even if it’s hundreds of years later). Just look at the Middle East right now. Most of the troubles that we see now and the long-standing hatred that many nations have there for Western nations is because of our imperial arrogance. In the 1800’s and the first half the 20th century, we gave little thought to the impact of our expansionist mentality on the people groups of the Middle East. We saw them as inferior people to be toyed with. Our word meant nothing. Imposing our will on others only leads to unforeseen negative consequences later. The same is true in interpersonal relationships.

When we simply look out for number one, we create paths of destruction. When trample on the rights of others without a second thought, we create the desire for vengeance. Jesus is calling us to care about how our actions affect others. When we do that, we have a greater tendency not to trample afoot the rights of others that would cause them to seek vengeance against us. When we have uncaring attitudes about others, we will commit crimes against one another that require court decisions, that require third parties to decide who is right and who is wrong, that require that the punishment fit the crime, that require an eye for an eye, that require a tooth for a tooth.

If we love others, without letting our selfish needs get in the way, permanent change can result. So, Jesus points out to us that loving others is more than the letter of the law. He is saying God’s law is His own. Vengeance belongs to Him. We are to love with no expectation of return. We are to love without expecting to get our needs met. Otherwise, we are no different from a selfish non-believer. We should love with no pride. To change the world, we must work at it one person at a time. You and I impact the world through diverging from self-satisfaction and getting our own retribution. We turn our retribution over to God.

In the face of expected retribution, how different from the world can we be or better yet how different the world would be if we stick a flower in the end of the barrel of the gun pointed at us. 1960’s utopia at its best! How different the world would be if we were slapped in the face, we turn around and tell that person, I love you. How different the world would be if we were ordered to carry a ruling soldier’s provisions for a mile down the round, then, we at one mile, offer to carry his goods for another mile. We have the example of this kind going the extra mile kind of love in Jesus Christ. Jesus did the same for us by so sacrificially loving us that he gave his life in excruciating pain on the cross. He could have removed Himself from the cross. He was put there under false pretenses. He could have, as God in the flesh, taken himself down from the cross and gone all super-hero Rambo on everybody’s ass. He could have sought vengeance. He could have zapped everyone right where they stood! But Jesus did not want anything to do with getting revenge. He had His Father’s goal in mind. He wanted the big picture! He wanted people to have a way to reconcile themselves to the Father through His sacrifice. He loved with restoration in mind. He loved with salvation in mind. He loved not for the moment. He loved us with our eternity in mind. The temporary offense to Him personally on the cross, painful as it was, was far less important that people finding their way to God. He gave his vengeance over to his Heavenly Father in humble submission and kept loving even while hanging on the cross, a love with no pride.

If we love like Jesus loved, then, the boundaries set by the Mosaic Law will never be approached. We may get offended and hurt in this life but if we live with reconciliation in mind then there is no need to get to the point of the punishment fitting the crime. We will resolve issues with those that have hurt us. We will resolve issues with those that we have hurt. When we love with a person’s eternity in mind, it changes our perspective. When we love with reconciliation always in mind, we approach life from the point of what is best for each of us in this situation rather than simply what is best for me. When we live our lives to point people to Jesus Christ by how we treat them then that, too, changes our perspective. Love with no pride. Love with no agenda. Love with no scorecard. Love with eternity in mind. Sounds like a 1960’s utopian social experiment doesn’t it? It is only through the grace of Jesus Christ and the model of His life that He gave us that we can become such creatures. On our own efforts, we will crash and burn, but through Christ we can do all things – even overcoming selfish desires, pride, and the need for vengeance.

Romans 12:17-21 — Do you remember a movie from 20 years ago called, “The War” (starring Kevin Costner and a young Elijah Wood). It is one of my favorite movies ever. It speaks to our human nature. In that movie, whose setting was the Vietnam War era, kids build a tree house/fort and some other kids try to take it away from them. As the movie progresses, there is an ever-increasing level of violence to the point that on one summer afternoon the hatred of the two groups of kids for one another grows to the point that an all-out war for possession of the fort begins. In the end, the fort is burned to the ground. No one wins. There is nothing left to win.

It is this mentality that pervades our world today. It is to this mentality that Paul speaks through the ages directly to us in today’s verses. These verses summarize the core of Christian living and how it is often times the opposite of our human nature. It is our human nature to pay back evil with more evil. It is our nature to seek revenge for real or perceived wrongs done to us. In this day and age of ever increasing lawsuits, we demand that our rights not be abridged. In this world where we have become a people who says I can do whatever I want and I have inalienable right to do it, Paul speaks to us. Paul’s command sounds almost impossible.

When people hurt you deeply, in our sin nature, we wanna pay ’em back with what they deserve. Paul says to befriend them. Why should we forgive our enemies? C’mon Paul, that sounds so weak. That sounds like we should be doormats and let people just run roughshod over us. Why forgive our enemies? Man, that’s a hard one. My soul screams out for revenge. I want to be satisfied. I want to knock down my enemies and give them the same feeling of hurt and pain that they gave me. Can you feel that anger and pain? Can you feel it? Right now, you are drifting back in memory to a time that someone hurt you deeply. Right now, you may be experiencing that time all over again in your mind. The anger wells up in you and your stomach churns. Your pulse quickens. You mentally think about the revenge that you did take or should have taken. Why Paul? Why? Why do I as a Christ follower have to forgive me enemies?

Forgiveness may break a cycle of retaliation that leads to destruction and bring about reconciliation. It may make your enemy feel ashamed causing a change in the person’s ways. Even if your enemy never repents and forgives you as well, you have relived yourself of a heavy burden of bitterness. When we forgive evil done to you, you quit obsessing about that person. When we forgive, we quit “letting them live rent free in our head.” Lend a helping hand, send a gift, or just smile at them. Right actions often lead us to forgiveness. If we forgive without having the payback we want for revenge, we are extending grace. Remember, grace by theological definition is an undeserved gift. By giving an enemy grace, we are not excusing what they did, we’re not recognizing, forgiving, and loving that person with a love that they do not deserve. Hmmm. Who else did that? Yes, it was Jesus Christ. God loves us despite our rebellion against Him. He loves us so much that He sent His Son to be a sacrifice for the sins that we committed so that we can avoid our proper judgment and be reconciled to Him. It is like a father who loves his teenage son despite the fact that the son blatantly has disdain for him in word and deed. If we have been given grace through Jesus Christ, should we not extend that same grace to our enemies.

Forgiveness does not mean forgetting like the saying says. Forgiveness means remembering what was done but choosing, get that – choosing, to love your offender anyway. We do not have to be gushy friends with those who have hurt us. We do have to extend them grace. They may have their own motivations that we must try to understand. In our understanding, we learn to extend grace. However, it does not mean we have to be best friends. We can learn to respect them again. We can end the cycle of revenge. In my divorce from my first wife, it was the “divorce from hell” where my ex constantly attacked me with intensity for over two years – to the point that she made accusations that prevented me from seeing my children for six months. It was nasty. It was mean. It consumed life and all that was around it. Through it all, I tried to take the high road and not get down in the dirt. Many times, my sin nature got the best of me but I was able to get beyond it. Today, twenty years later, I have forgiven all the mean things that happened. However, we are not friends. I care about what happens to her and can have a civil conversation with her these days when we do in fact talk but I have moved on in life. There is no commonality other than our grown kids now. There is just nothing in common. Just because you forgive someone doesn’t mean that you have to be all up in their lives. Forgiveness is for us not for those we forgive. When we forgive, we give it up to the Lord. He may lead us to re-establish relationship but He may also lead us to just quit letting our enemy consume our mind and heart. When we forgive, He may lead us away to more healthy relationships. He may lead us to change playgrounds and playmates. We can’t have healthy relationships with others when we let our enemies consume our very soul. Our very soul should be consumed with the Holy Spirit not our enemies.

In the end of the movie, “The War”, the fort was destroyed. Nothing was left to win. The only thing, the one and only thing that broke the cycle of ever-escalating violence was when Elijah Wood’s character saved his enemies’ little baby brother from drowning. The war was over then. Although the kids did not become great friends in the end, the war was over. They learned to respect each other. They learned that revenge for revenge leads us to forget what the heck we were fighting for in the first place. Revenge becomes its own god. Revenge destroys our soul. Forgiveness frees us. Regardless of whether we get our payback or not, forgiveness sets us free to remove that idol from our lives. When we are obsessed with revenge, we are making ourselves god. Forgiveness puts God back on the throne. Forgiveness emulates our Father’s forgiveness for us. We have been given grave. Let us extend it to others. It doesn’t mean we have to be their best friend but it does mean that we let go of that obsession, that I idol that we have made of our hatred of that person. It is God’s job to judge. It is not ours. It is our job to extend the same grace that God gave us in Jesus Christ.

Otherwise, the fort is burned. There is nothing left. In “the War” the fort was never rebuilt. Destruction was complete and there was no desire anymore. Love has gained more than war every time. War just leads to more war. Love is a permanent solution. War consumes everything in its path. Love lets things grow. Forgive before the war consumes you. Forgive.

Romans 12:14 — “Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them.” Here is an instruction on living the Christ-like walk that is difficult for us to practice with even the closest people in our lives much less a non-believer.

In the book of Acts, we find Stephen, the first Christian martyr, blessing those who had just stoned him to the point of death. How do we do this in our own lives? Proverbs 25:21-22 says, If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; And if he is thirsty, give him water to drink; For you will heap burning coals on his head, And the LORD will reward you.” This kind of behavior is contrary to our human nature. Our human nature is to lash out at those who are our enemies. Our human nature is to lash out at those who have hurt us. Like a football team that has that killer instinct that grinds their opponents into the ground, we want to completely destroy our opponents. How does God expect us to be this way? It is so hard. I want revenge on those who have hurt me! For example, how does one respond, say, to a spouse that leaves you for another lover. How can I not hate them both and want to punish them for what they did? How can I not hate that person that screws you over at work and seems to have gained great advantage from it? How do you not hate that mean girl at school who has spread vicious rumors about you just because you were beginning to have some popularity? We deal with these types of situations throughout our lives. From kindergarten to the senior center, we have to deal with people who have made us angry, have taken advantage of us, or who were just downright mean to us.

God how do we do this one thing that you expect of us? The first thing is in submission of our will to that of God our Father. If we are truly submitted to Him as we say we are, we must give this up to Him. Let us take our anger out on God. I don’t mean being indignant with God or blaming Him but being like a child with a father. When the world dumps on us as children, we talk with our daddies. We ask him how we should respond. We cry. We vent our anger and frustration. We seek the advise of our dad. When we go to our eternal Father with anger over those who have hurt us, we vent. We cry. We cry out to Him. When we do this, it shows that we do actually believe that our unseen Father in Heaven is really central in our lives. Rather letting our anger fester and boil, we have a honest conversation with our Father. God doesn’t want our formula prayers. He wants to have real conversation with us. He wants us to express our true feelings to Him. When we let our anger rule our response, are we not playing god? We have been offended. We want to use our own power to respond. When we seek God, we are saying to ourselves that God is in charge. He really wants this type of relationship. He wants those real conversations instead of platitudes. He wants to hear when you are “so angry I cannot even see straight.” Be honest with your Father in Heaven. Seek His will. Ask Him how to respond. Ask for His help in controlling your anger.

Pray for those who persecute you!?!? Really? Paul, you have got to be kidding? How can I pray for a man who just stole my promotion from me? How can I pray for a man who just stole my wife? How can I pray for a person who assaulted my child? How can I pray for someone who just murdered someone I love? How can I pray for the drunk driver that just killed my family in a car accident? How can I pray for anyone who has hurt me? This is a tough one. There is a story I found on the internet that goes like this. A man went into the preaching ministry, worked for seven years, then resigned to go back to medical school and become a doctor. He came to the conclusion that “People don’t want spiritual health. They just want to feel good.” He said that after working as a physician for seven years, he again resigned, this time to go back to school and become an attorney. He said, “People don’t want spiritual health. They don’t even want physical health. They just want to get even.” However, when we commit to pray for a person who has hurt us, we don’t like it at first. In the process of praying for a person who has hurt us, we may begin to see them as a human being rather than a demon. We may, through the Holy Spirit’s help, begin to see what that person’s motivations were for hurting us. We may never fully understand nor get to the point that we want to have lunch with them or even get to know them. However, prayer leads us to let go of our anger. Prayer allows us to see that person as one who needs God’s forgiveness of sin just as much as we did and still do.

A lot of times when people hurt us, it is because they want and relish that we will respond in kind. When we seek and plot revenge. Are we not letting that person, as the old saying goes, “live rent free in our head.” Give it up. When we let a person’s actions so consume us, it can lead to their own destruction. Let that not happen to us. A woman who becomes so scornful toward her ex-husband that she becomes so obsessed with destroying him that she loses sight of her life is an example. This could be a husband as well. They get so consumed with destroying their spouse that they lose every friend they ever had, may even lose their children, all to the point that all they can talk about is their ex. They have no life. Is that what we want to be. The best revenge is a good life. The best revenge is rebuilding and moving on. The best revenge is to show them that they did not destroy you. The best revenge is to to pray for them. The natural inclination of everyone is to respond with hate to those who have hurt us. Our greatest witness of what a Christ follower is really like is to respond to hurt with kindness. It ain’t always easy. When our core cries out to strike them down, we must have a renewed mind. When anger is the common answer, we must respond in love. Does this make us doormats? No. We do not respond to others by letting them run over us but we do go against our nature and respond in love not hate. The old saying two wrongs don’t make a right is it. We must seek God first. We must pray for those who have hurt us. We must let the Holy Spirit govern our response.

How can we teach someone about Jesus Christ if we respond in exactly the same manner as an unsaved person? If we respond to the world around us in the same way that they do, how can they see Jesus? If it is our commitment to carry the gospel to the world, the world must see a difference in us? They must see that we are different in a way that they want? Lord, help us all as Christ followers to be in the world but not of it. Our response to hurt is the most telling tale of how we are different than the world. All the theology of Christianity is meaningless if we do not respond to the world any differently than they do. Lord, help me to seek your will always. Even when someone has licked the sugar of my Corn Flakes. Help me to seek your will for my response. Help me to take myself off the throne of my heart. Help me to seek how to glorify you and make Your Son’s name famous rather than to meet my needs for revenge. Help me. Help me. Help me with this one, Lord. Amen and amen. Gotta say amen twice on this one. Lord. So be it and So be it til I believe it.