11 Minute Read + Scripture readings
Today’s Bible Reading:
Today’s Bible Verse(s):
Matthew 6:14-15 (CSB): “For if you forgive others their offenses, your heavenly Father will forgive you as well. But if you don’t forgive others, your Father will not forgive our offenses.”
Reflections on Today’s Bible Verse(s):
Forgiveness is incredibly easy to talk about … until someone has hurt you really badly and appears to be escaping any consequences for their actions.
I have been wronged just like you and everyone else. And there have been times when I have wanted to shout from the rooftops what someone did to me. I know that I would lose all respect for someone else who would do such a thing but don’t we periodically have a desire for instant clarification and vindication? God oftentimes doesn’t seem to be dishing out punishment and so we feel compelled to do so.
Yet, the verses that I have chosen for today make it clear that if I don’t forgive someone (and release them from my heart’s prison), then God won’t listen to me when I ask for His forgiveness. That’s serious! Well, let’s consider some biblical principles to help us forgive those who have hurt us.
If I was Joseph (Genesis 37-50) and my brothers had sold me into a life of slavery, I would like to think that I would have eventually responded as graciously as he did with his brothers. But, I wonder if my fellow slaves would have gotten regular doses of my story and the injustice of it all. I wonder if I could have let it go. Of course, Joseph’s perspective was helped along by the fact that he ended up as second-in-command in Egypt. But, what if he hadn’t? What if he remained a slave for the rest of his life? Would he have been able to forgive his brothers?
While a follower of Jesus can experience a desire for justice, he or she should never seek to be the one to administer that justice. We have to release the one(s) who has wronged us and place all possibilities of punishment into the hands of God (and maybe whatever authority may need to get involved [parents, law enforcement, etc.]).
And releasing the possibilities of punishment into the hands of God (and authorities?) means that we will refuse to gossip and slander. Those two activities are often the tools that people use to pay someone back for the hurt they caused.
So, let’s get to the big question…
If I am commanded to love those who hurt me, and if I am not to take justice into my own hands even to the point of refusing to gossip about it, how in the world can my godly desire for justice be satisfied?!
Great question! Let’s look to God’s Word for the answer:
Romans 12:17 (CSB): “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Give careful thought to do what is honorable in everyone’s eyes.”
In the previous verse, we are clearly told not to treat someone badly simply because they treated us badly. When someone hurts us, when an injustice takes place, we may want to respond by hurting them (maybe with gossip and slander) but we are told to refuse to do so.
Instead, we are told in the previous verse to respond in a way that causes others to see our actions as “honorable in everyone’s eyes.”
“Wow! Have you noticed how Billy-Bob is being mistreated? Deacon Billy-Joe has been running him down for months and Billy-Bob continues to respond with a caring, quiet, compassionate spirit. It seems that Billy-Bob wants to bless Deacon Billy-Joe rather than run him down. That’s impressive! How can he behave in such an honorable way?!”
Romans 12:18 (CSB): “If possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”
It’s not always possible to live at peace with every. But, if a relationship goes sour, it shouldn’t be our fault. If it stays sour, it shouldn’t be our fault.
So, how is this possible. How can we behave honorably toward those who have hurt us? How can we “love (our) enemies and pray for those who persecute (us)” (Matthew 5:44).
The answer is found in the next few verses. We can love and bless and act honorably with our enemies because of what God has promised to do in the next few verses.
Romans 12:19 (CSB): “Friends, do not avenge yourselves; instead, leave room for God’s wrath, because it is written, ‘Vengeance belongs to me; I will repay, says the Lord.’”
In this verse, we are told to never seek revenge. We are forbidden to ever seek to hurt the one who has hurt us.
How can we sit idly by?
Because we know that the Lord has promised to take vengeance. The Lord says that He “will repay.” He is a righteous judge and doesn’t overlook offenses. In His own way and time, He will administer justice.
Restated: We can forgo the desire to seek revenge because the Lord has promised to take revenge for us.
Romans 12:20 (CSB): “But ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him. If he is thirsty, give him something to drink. For in so doing you will be heaping fiery coals on his head.’”
Knowing that God will administer justice, we are free to meet the needs of our enemies. We can feed them if they are hungry. We can give them something to drink if they are thirsty. And we can do so, satisfied that our Heavenly Father will make things right.
“Heaping fiery coals on his head” seems to refer to an ancient practice that showed the brokenness and repentance that was taking place in the heart. So, treating our enemies with love might leave them bewildered and they may even say: “I’ve treated you so badly. Why are you treating me so nice?”
Romans 12:21 (CSB): “Do not be conquered by evil, but conquer evil with good.”
This is the activity of a noble follower of Jesus. We don’t play by the world’s rules. We play by God’s rules. And doing so enables us to act honorably, a way that demonstrates that we are royalty and belong to the family of the King of kings.
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Lord Jesus, others have wronged me and I have wronged others. It’s just messy down here with a world filled with sinners. Help me to realize just how wonderful it is to be forgiven by You and let me extend that forgiveness to those who have wronged me. In so doing, let me illustrate the Gospel that can save lost souls from Hell. Amen.