12. Revenge Is Mine!!! (Mwa-ha-ha)

21 12 2010

(I have been blogging on the book, “The Bait of Satan.” Today’s blog is a reflection of chapter 12).

Yesterday I wrote on the topic of forgiveness and as I let the topic ruminate, I thought about the times when someone has come to me to ask for forgiveness; or when I have gone to someone to ask for forgiveness and it is granted. There is this immediate relief; in fact, where there was pain, it is displaced by peace and even joy. Forgiveness is a beautiful gift to give, and an amazing gift to receive. Whenever I am involved in such an exchange, there is a rightness, a goodness to it all. The whole process of forgiving/being forgiven is one of the few experiences I can say is divine.

There is a “right” way that humans ought to relate to one another: in conversation; in community but we all know how it actually works. Human justice holds out on forgiveness. Human justice puts people on probation. Human justice watches and waits until the other person owns up; fully. When my kids were young and an apology was given, quite often they would fold their arms and say, “You’re not sorry enough.” That weighing, in a nutshell, is human justice.

Actually, what this is (and I hadn’t thought about it this way) is vengeance; unforgiveness is vengeance:

“We will not forgive until the debt is paid in full, and only we can determine the acceptable compensation. When we seek to correct the wrong done to us, we set ourselves up as judges” (144).

Have you ever been on the receiving end of this? Never knowing when you have “done enough” to be forgiven? Or maybe you have been the one who has held the cards. But “there is one Lawgiver,” James 4:12 and 5:9 says, “Who are you to judge another? Do not grumble against one another, brethren, lest you be condemned. Behold, the Judge is standing at the door!”

The author writes, “Jesus eliminates any gray areas for grudges. In fact He says that our attitude is to be so far removed from avenging ourselves that we are willing to open ourselves to the possibility of being taken advantage of again” (145). That, my friends, is the kind of thing Jesus asks of us; hard stuff hey? We are not to take justice into our own hands, by withholding true love and forgiveness from the one we think “owes us” something, we (like the unforgiving servant in the parable I wrote about yesterday) are not to put people in our personal prisons.

I really had to think about this. How do I, mentally, put people in jails through my inability to fully forgive and release them from any obligation to me? This is a form of revenge, only I don’t think of it as such because no one can see it and I am not really “doing” anything; but one feels it, one definitely feels it, whether it is me the “unforgiver” or you the “unforgiven” or vice versa. The author speaks to this and says, “If you feel cheated, you have lost your concept of the mercy extended to you” (144), and he is right.

If Jesus had waited for us to come and apologize, the author asks, how long would He have waited? He wouldn’t have gone to the cross if He had waited for us to come to Him. He went to the cross without expecting anything from us.

When we choose revenge (in this case, withholding love and forgiveness from another) we are planting seeds of “debt, unforgiveness and offense and another root will spring up in place of the love of God. It is called the root of bitterness” (147).The author quotes Francis Frangipane for this definition of bitterness: “bitterness is unfulfilled revenge” and it is produced “when revenge is not satisfied to the degree we desire” (147).

Who do I, who do you, hold in debt; in bondage to our sense of justice? This is an incredibly important question because there should not be a single person on that list:

“The Bible says a person who does not pursue peace by releasing offenses will eventually become defiled. That which is precious will end up being corrupted by the vileness of unforgiveness” (148).

For the rest of the chapter the author walks through the life of Absalom and his steady decline into bitterness against his father. Along the way, Absalom became an “expert critic of David’s weaknesses” (149). It isn’t like there weren’t weaknesses, but this young man who could have been a king, instead of handling this in a righteous manner, began to gather to himself “anyone who was discontented. He made himself available to all Israel, taking time to listen to their complaints” (150).

He was offended, and he gathered those who were offended — an all-to-familiar scenario — and in the end “died in his prime because he refused to release the debt he thought his father owed” (150). Hebrews exhorts us to walk:

“carefully…lest any root of bitterness spring up cause trouble, and by this may become defiled” (12:15)

Unforgiveness is a form of revenge; it tastes like bitterness and loves to dine with company; it infects, leading bystanders to join in “unforgiving” and now a whole kind of unrighteousness snuffs out the potential of Christ in us.

So what do we need? What do I need? To be proven right???

“Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:31-32).

— Teresa Klassen




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