In this morning’s sermon, we looked at Matthew 18:21-35 and were reminded that a true Jesus-follower must forgive others perpetually. No matter what is done to us and no matter how many times it is done, we must never refuse to forgive.
Sometimes it feels impossible? Yep!
But, it’s a command from our Lord. We must comply.
That doesn’t mean that injustice will prevail, though. It simply means that we realize that justice must be administered by the civil authorities and by God, not us.
One of the things I did not mention (because the sermon was already going long) was that we have the right to call upon God to administer justice for a wrong done against us. We are never to repay a wrong with a wrong but we can certainly call upon God to exercise justice on our behalf.
We also have the right to call upon God to drop the charges.
Imagine that you are in a courtroom. You are watching the proceedings taking place in front of you. The Defendant is an Anesthesiologist who botched a C-section and the Plaintiff is the lady who was on the operating table. Simply put, the Anesthesiologist let the pain killers run out mid-surgery and the Plaintiff is suing him for unspeakable pain and suffering.
But, then, to everyone’s surprise, the Plaintiff brings the proceedings to an abrupt halt when she says: “I’m dropping the charges.”
She certainly has that right. She was the one who was wronged. It was her who was hurt by the Defendant’s actions.
She is the only one who has the right to drop the charges … or to carry on with justice. Either one is within her legal right. And either of these two options is within her ability to pursue as a Christian. Neither choice is right or wrong. She just needs to determine which course of action she will take.
Friend, it works that way in our relationship with those who have hurt us in the sight of God. When others say something or do something to hurt us, we can place that matter in God’s hands and call for justice. After all, the Bible says …
“Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, ‘I will take revenge; I will pay them back,’ says the LORD.” (Romans 12:19 – New Living Translation)
So, we have the legal and Christ-honoring right to call upon God to administer justice on our behalf. But, we also have the right to ask God to drop the charges.
Let me share a few illustrations in Scripture.
Our first stop is a place called Golgotha. Jesus was hanging on a cross. The people who were responsible for putting Him there were gathered in front of Him.
It was a horrible injustice! Jesus had every right to expect divine justice to be administered upon them.
But He dropped the charges.
“And Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.’…” (Luke 23:34)
Our next stop is about a couple of months later outside the same city. A man named Stephen, who was a Deacon in the Jerusalem church, was being condemned for sharing the Gospel with others. In fact, those who condemned him began to throw rocks at him and didn’t stop until he was dead.
It was a horrible injustice! Stephen had every right to call upon God to administer justice upon them.
But he dropped the charges.
“And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’ And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them.’…” (Acts 7:59-60)
Now, let’s fast-forward about 20 years to a prison cell in Rome. Paul needed support and friendships when he was giving his defense before the judicial system. But, his friends abandoned him. Maybe they feared persecution or death. But in their cowardice, they deserted Paul in his greatest time of need.
It was a horrible injustice! Paul had every right to call upon God to administer justice upon them for abandoning him when he needed them most.
But he dropped the charges.
“At my first defense no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me. May it not be charged against them!” (2 Timothy 4:16)
Friend, when we are wronged, we have every right to call upon God for justice. He has told us in Romans 12:19 that He is prepared to do so.
But it is also an option that we can tell God that we are dropping the charges.
So, when others do something wrong to you, you must remind yourself that you are not the judge, the jury, or the prison guard. You have no right to hold onto unforgiveness. But God appears to have placed within your hands the ability to call for justice or to drop the charges. Neither course of action is wrong if our heart is right.
Just know that you don’t have to hold onto unforgiveness. God has promised that He will carry out justice. All that is left for you is to decide whether you want to pursue justice or to drop the charges.