This has been a year of working through this notion of forgiveness. It’s so easy for me to hold onto the past events, conversations, mull over words of pay back to vindicate myself, my family or a messy situation. As my dear mentor has told me, “pour coals of blessings over your enemy.” This sounds like vindication, but it’s so different. It’s being able to wholeheartedly not repay evil for evil, but pray blessings on the person’s life who has done wrong.
It’s interesting how we are all in need of a little grace. How in Christian and non-Christian circles, we liken to Jesus’ teachings and his life. Undeniable of his great love & grace. To the Israelites, his birth meant one of nobility and justice for once–for the usurping hand of the Romans & King Herod. They likened the coming king to that of the warrior King David, who defended & destroyed. They wanted to see (what many modernists think) God’s justice & anger to scorn all those who harmed them (we might think of it as the God of the Old Testament). However, God has always been the same in the Old and New Testament. He didn’t bring them the warrior king. He didn’t bring them a priestly, noble baby king born in a palace, wrapped in fine linens. He turned their worlds upside down.
I read this today from the Apostle Paul,
“For God chose to save us through our Lord Jesus Christ, not to pour out his anger on us…See that no one pays back evil for evil, but always try to do good to each other and to all people.”
There are people in my life who have betrayed me, and/or people I dearly love. It’s far too easy to go down that road of devising a plan to repay evil for evil. It feels good in the beginning to be the giver of justice. It’s so much more difficult to choose the road of humility, praying blessings upon the evil doer. Jesus came as a baby King born in a smelly stable, a feedbox bed, wrapped in less than fine linen, living the life of a vagrant. And when he was falsely accused, he didn’t defend himself, justify his status–he knew who he was & is. I’m in awe of this ability to love.
“not to pour out his anger on us. Christ died for us so that, whether we are dead or alive when he returns, we can live with him forever…Hold onto what is good. Stay away from every kind of evil.”
In Jesus’ last hours in the garden, the soldiers came with force to arrest this man who called himself the Christ. Peter, one of Jesus’ disciples, thinking he was doing good by protecting his master, pulled out a sword and cut off one of the soldier’s ears. When we face blatant evil, wrong doing, our first instinct is to react like Peter. It’s human.
Jesus stopped Peter, picked up the hacked off ear and healed the soldier to prior form. This king was like none other and even his followers didn’t fully comprehend his greatness.
And here we are approaching 2011, still with the options before us to repay evil with Jesus’ style love, or with Peter’s vindication. The Apostle Paul concludes,
Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you to belong to Christ Jesus…Hold onto what is good. Stay away from every kind of evil.
Happy New Year and may this year be more about true life-giving love, transforming your soul and all you encounter.