12 Minute Read + Scripture readings
Today’s Bible Reading:
Today’s Bible Verse(s):
Acts 7:59-60 (CSB): “While they were stoning Stephen, he called out, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!’ He knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them!’ And after saying this, he fell asleep.”
Reflections on Today’s Bible Verse(s):
One of the extremely difficult (impossible!) commands in Scripture to obey is when God tells us to love our enemies.
Matthew 5:44-45 (CSB): “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven. For he causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”
If we could be so bold as to say it, we might say that the preceding command is not only impossible, it is also unjust. After all, if we love those who persecute us, then their unjust actions aren’t punished. They don’t receive consequences for what they did. It just seems so unfair.
Let’s look at this for a moment. I’m about to share something with you that you may have never noticed in Scripture.
To begin with, we understand justice and our desire for it. When someone wrongs us, we find within our heart a desire that they experience some consequences for what they did to us. This craving for justice is not wrong.
2 Timothy 4:14-15 (CSB): “Alexander the coppersmith did great harm to me. The Lord will repay him according to his works. Watch out for him yourself because he strongly opposed our words.”
We understand Paul’s sentiments, don’t we? A guy named Alexander had hurt the Apostle Paul. So, Paul found consolation in the fact that God was going to judge Alexander for his actions.
We can certainly ask God for justice upon those who have wronged us. But, I want to spend the remainder of our time looking at another option that God places within our hands.
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. She was the one 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 …
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.’”
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. He could have called for justice to be administered upon them.
But He dropped the charges.
Luke 23:34 (CSB): “Then Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, because they do not know what they are doing.’ And they divided his clothes and cast lots.”
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.
Acts 7:59-60 (CSB): “While they were stoning Stephen, he called out: ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!’ He knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them!’ And after saying this, he died.”
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.
2 Timothy 4:16 (CSB): “At my first defense, no one stood by me, but everyone deserted me. May it not be counted against them.”
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 we also have the option to 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.
However, the Bible reveals that God has 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.
* * * * * * * * * *
Lord Jesus, horrible wrongs have been done to me and there have been times when I have wronged other people. I understand from Your Word that I have the right to call upon You to administer justice upon those who hurt me. But, I also understand that I have the right to drop the charges in the Heavenly courtroom. Regardless of which course I take, help me to refuse to be the prosecuting attorney, the judge, and the jail warden. That’s Your job. Please help me to forgive and leave justice to You. Amen.