I offered my back to those who beat me,
my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard;
I did not hide my face
from mocking and spitting.
- Isaiah 50:6
Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.
- Luke 23:34
So Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me.
- John 8:28
Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary:
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
- Romans 12:17-21
“Jesus never asks us to do something He hasn’t already done first. He lived out this opposite teaching on a daily basis. At His arrest, Jesus was a peacemaker when He healed the servant’s ear that Peter cut off while trying to protect Him. He didn’t resist the soldiers, but instead gave Himself up to them. He allowed Himself to be led to trial.
“At His trial, Jesus did not choose to justify or defend Himself, but rather He remained silent. When the soldiers mocked Him, slapped His face, pulled His beard, and struck His back with whips, He did not resist them. As Scripture prophesied in Isaiah 50:6: ‘I offered my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard; I did not hide my face from mocking and spitting.’
“And then at His crucifixion, Jesus allowed both His cloak and tunic to be taken from Him. As the crowd mocked Him and threw insults at Him, Jesus prayed for His enemies and said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing’ (Luke 23:34).
“The kingdom of God is not a democracy. When we surrender our lives to Christ, we give up our rights to our ways of revenge and retaliation. Jesus was in complete submission to the Father and didn’t have a say in how He handled things. ‘I don’t do anything apart from my Father’s instruction,’ He said (see John 8:28).
“Even though it may have seemed like Jesus was defeated in the natural, it was actually the complete opposite. In surrendering His life and dying for us, His name is above every name. And He is our peace. He is our blessing. We are able to extend this to others, rather than seek revenge, because He lives inside us. We are ministers of reconciliation.
“If you find yourself in a situation where you want to take revenge, ask God to help you forgive instead. Then ask what you should do and act quickly in obeying Him. Watch how He will turn the situation around when you do things His way.”
- Alex Seeley, The Opposite Life
I have rarely plotted revenge. From early on, I was the victim of the bullies in school. You learned very quickly to steer clear of the bullies. It would be suicide to challenge them, to even plot revenge.
My problem was in holding grudges, harboring ill will against my neighbor for something they had done. Others in my family were masters of such. I had good, or would that be “bad,” teachers in how to hold a grudge. It is simply that I would never think to act upon that anger that I held inside. If I grew to be larger, they would probably be faster or quicker. I had this feeling that the fight was not worth it.
And in some recess of my brain, that thought of living with no reliable means for vengeance made the injury even worse, no chance of retaliation or revenge.
My tongue was sharp. It could be that many bullies held the same type of grudge against me, knowing that I could dish out the hurtful words faster than they could even think of them. And often, my hurtful words were not even meant to hurt. I might have wanted to simply voice my side of the situation, or I might just wanted to be the “mouse that roared” – just once, just to affirm that I was a human being too.
I bring the converse up to show that all can be victims of some sort of attack from all the rest of us. And all have some skill in attacking. It all comes down to our strong suits and our weaknesses. And sadly, we use our strengths against the weaknesses of others, even when we do not intend harm.
And I bring up the intent to harm because C. S. Lewis wrote about that and because we often blunder our way through life. I have probably written things that other people received in a way I never intended. You write something with your mindset. Someone else reads it from a different perspective and they could be offended. Sometimes, we can set aside what we have written and then read it weeks later and see how others might see it, but sometimes, you have to walk in that person’s shoes for a while to see it.
And with that in mind, does it give us the thought that if the other person did not mean harm, should we hold a grudge? Definitely we should not act upon the grudge.
I have known children to pick on other children because they liked them and wanted to become friends. This sometimes produces the opposite result. Could it be that adults have a little of that in themselves?
And before we blindly go to “treat others as you wish to be treated” let us consider temperaments. Introverts want to be left alone and with friendships, they want fewer friends that can get close. Extroverts never met a soul that they did not wish to become bosom buddies, the more the merrier. Of course, these are extreme caricatures, but they illustrate that you might think you are “loving” your neighbor, but your neighbor does not take it as “loving.” That could be something that harms a relationship without meaning to harm.
And what of lawsuits? What about an employer who writes on the employment physical that the person is unfit because they are too old? What happens when a technician is inserting an IV, but they are late for their smoke break and they jam the needle in, slicing the vein and nearly causing the patient to bleed out and die? What if weekly checks are made of hemoglobin, but the doctor ignores that the hemoglobin drops into the danger zone and for two more weeks goes even lower, again near death? What if an arm retains fluid and the doctor says that the condition is normal for some people when it was discovered that a vein had narrowed which could have become a serious issue? In each of these cases, the victim chose to forgive rather than find a lawyer. Too often, our anger becomes greed and all that results is that grudges form, animosity forms, a lack of trust results, and the lawyers get rich. When you have sued doctors, will your new doctor trust you?
Remember that it is difficult to truly love someone if you hold a grudge against them. When Jesus told us to love one another, love our neighbors, and love our enemies, He was telling us to truly do so, not give them a hug with one hand and sharpen the dagger with the other.
Lord, guide me. At times, I see an old enemy and I walk away. They may have meant no harm. They may have wanted to be friends, but it is I who holds the grudge. Even if the circumstances leave me with being unable to continue the relationship, help me to forgive. Let us always have Your love in our hearts. Thank You for giving us that capacity to forgive. In Thy Name I pray. Amen
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.