My God will fight for me, I have only to be silent (Exodus 14:14).
Some time back I sat under excellent teaching through the book of Colossians. One sermon has had me pondering a “thought” ever since – the focus of which was forgiveness. To open the message, the pastor shared a story, which I will quickly repeat.
A man was bitten by a rabid dog and, naturally, sent to the hospital for treatment. Unfortunately, the bite was too severe, and nothing could be done to cure the man. So, the doctor went to his bedside to deliver the bad news. “I’m so terribly sorry, but there is nothing we can do for you. You are terminal. In the few remaining lucid days you will have, you might want to consider getting your affairs in order, writing your will, calling in family, etc.” As the doctor departed, the gentleman in the bed reflected on the words heard, and pulling out a piece of paper, began scribbling as fast as he could. He was still writing when the doctor returned several minutes later. “I see you are taking quite seriously the encouragement to get your affairs in order. Writing your will, are you?” “No,” replied the sick man. “Making a list of everyone I want to bite before I die.”
According to biblical principles, we, as Christians know that revenge is really not sweet, contrary to popular opinion. Jesus spells it out clearly in Matthew 18 the importance of forgiveness, then went on to model it for us from the cross. Paul gives us strong words in Ephesians 4:32, “And be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” These are words we know…words that are sometimes hard to do. Necessary, but often difficult.
Yet, that’s not the direction my mind went following the sermon. I listened carefully. I walked through the ending exercise given the congregation, but my brain (as is often the case) went down an entirely different road. The question I asked myself was this, “Whose lists would I be on?” I sat with that question for a bit, and it definitely didn’t take too long for some names to pop in my mind.
That breaks my heart. The truth is that even though I’m still on some lists, I believe I’ve followed correct biblical procedure to seek reconciliation. That morning, I searched my heart for anything else I might do to bring about restoration. Just as hard as it is to forgive, it’s almost as difficult to be on the other side – wanting the forgiveness, but not able to receive it. Ever been there? So, what do you do in the meantime, because you can’t live your life painfully waiting for what might not happen? It can eat us alive, internally, or we can take God’s approach. Here are some things the Lord reminded me –
1. Bless those who persecute you and pray for those who are spiteful against you (even this is a form of persecution). So, for those whose lists I know I am on, I have written out a prayer of blessing. Whenever their name pops into my thoughts, I add to the prayer written in my journal.
2. Seek mercy, love justice, and walk humbly with God. I asked again, is there any opportunity to seek mercy, even still, and request what I might do to humbly satisfy the debt?
3. Be silent. I don’t need to talk to or about; I don’t need to defend or fight on my own behalf. I simply need to let go and watch for God to intervene.
4. Return to an attitude of praise. When the thing I want to do most is fight on my behalf, I remember how Jehoshaphat was led into battle – praising God.
Praising and blessing do the most for turning something the enemy would want to devastate us with into glory and honor and peace that passes all understanding.