Revenge vs. Forgiveness; June 13, 2017


1 Samuel 24:12 “May the Lord judge between you and me. And may the Lord avenge the wrongs you have done to me, but my hand will not touch you.”

David’s dependence on God was complete. He not only trusted Him to provide victory over enemies in battle, as He had done with Goliath, he also trusted Him for moral victories, providing justice when he had been wronged. That can be more difficult than open conflict! Many people are familiar with what God said through Moses in Deuteronomy 32:35 and 41, quoted by Paul in Romans 12:19 and by the writer to the Hebrews in Hebrews 10:30: “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” However, we still have an emotional desire to pay people back for the wrongs they do us. The problem is, that is the very definition of unforgiveness, and it damages the one nursing the grudge far more than it does the one who wronged them. When we nurse a grudge we hold it to our breast, just as the words themselves mean, and it eats away at us. In the premarital counseling I do (not to mention marital conflict counseling) I stress this point, because nursed grudges will poison any relationship. Jesus said they will even poison our relationship with our Heavenly Father. (Matthew 6:14-15) For our own emotional health, and really for our own salvation, we need to make the choice David did, and let God take care of justice issues in the short and long term.

I honestly don’t know what it was about my upbringing that made it easier for me to forgive than it seems to be for many people. Perhaps it was the example my parents set, but then I seem to find it easier than some of my siblings. However it happened, I’m grateful. That said, I deal with other people’s forgiveness issues all the time. I have seen many people absolutely poisoned by unforgiveness, and it is sad indeed. Living in Nagasaki Prefecture, every summer we get bombarded by people who can’t forgive America for dropping the atomic bomb here, never mind that it was instrumental in ending a war that Japan started. (I have long maintained that the Hiroshima bomb was sufficient to do that and the Nagasaki bomb was completely unnecessary, but that’s a different matter.) All issues of justice aside, such an attitude benefits no one. However, holding an American passport, I also have to hold my tongue, because arguing only inflames things. Wars in general are very sad chapters in human history, but Jesus said we aren’t to get stirred up over them. (Matthew 24:6) I’ve written before about the Japanese linguistic difficulty in dealing with the very word, forgiveness, but this is an issue for all mankind. I am both to proclaim and demonstrate forgiveness, letting people know that God’s forgiveness is available by forgiving them myself. (John 20:23) That will give them the best chance of repenting and believing for their own salvation. (Mark 1:15)

Father, thank You for this reminder. Thank You for David’s example. Thank You for what we have seen just recently of You dealing with the heart of someone who was not fair to us. I continue to pray for his full repentance and salvation. I cannot save him, or anyone else, myself, but I can speak the truth of salvation in Christ in Your love. May many indeed receive it, repent, and believe, for their salvation and Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!

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About jgarrott

Born and raised in Japan of missionary parents. Have been here as an adult missionary since 1981.
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