What Is The Best Way To Forgive?
Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do. “I’ll do the judging,” says God. “I’ll take care of it.” Romans 12:19, The Message
“I am from mainland China,” writes a friend of Guidelines who tells how someone introduced him to Jesus Christ. “Miraculously, I was filled with peace and happiness,” he says as he began to study the Bible. But some of what he read in this book troubled him, especially what Jesus said. He wrote, “I find it impossible to love my enemy and pray for the person who hates me. My culture teaches me to pay an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But Jesus said, ‘Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.'”
He then got to the bottom line. When a young lady was no longer the object of his attention, she began slandering him. “She couldn’t forgive me,” he says, adding, “She perceived me to be weak and faint, so she kept on insulting and hurting me. I hated myself for not retaliating. My coworkers mocked at the coward that I was. I lost my self-respect as a person. I felt like a dog, not a man. And I wanted to get even. That’s the only way I know to redeem my self-respect. Please help me: I want to love as Jesus tells me, but hatred rules over me.”
The young man is not the only one who feels torn between vengeance and doing what God wants. Three times the Bible stresses the truth that vengeance is God’s prerogative—not ours. Moses stressed that truth in the book of Deuteronomy (32:35), but it is also mentioned twice in the 27 books of the New Testament. Writing to the Romans, Paul says, “Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord” (Romans 12:19). And then the writer of Hebrews says the same thing.
But our old nature, as well as our culture, demands revenge—an eye for an eye, a harsh word for a harsh word, a blow for a blow.
Why is it that Jesus’ advice seems to be so foreign, so opposed to the feelings of our natures? First—Jesus realized that God is far more worthy to mete out impartial judgment than we are. As the judge of the world, He knows the full story, and He is also fair and just. Believe me, God has His payday, some day. And though the gristmill of the Almighty may grind at a different speed—sometimes a slower pace than we like—it nonetheless grinds exacting and very fine. Nothing goes unnoticed, nothing goes unpunished.
There’s another reason as well. There is no end to vengeance. One blow produces a corresponding blow. One misdeed produces another. Family feuds go on for generations inflicting more wounds, more pain. Jesus knew that bitterness is a killer. Furthermore, when you release the bitterness, when you extend forgiveness to those who have wronged you, you get rid of a tremendous amount of psychological garbage which eats away at you like a cancer.
“I want to get even to redeem my worth as a man,” wrote our young friend. But forgiving someone, releasing the bitterness, putting the whole issue in God’s hands, is actually redeeming our value as a person. You must never forget that Christ died to redeem us from the curse of our old nature, including the desire to inflict pain on someone because he or she did the same thing to you.
Inflicting vengeance will never bring back the one you love, or mend a broken heart, or remove the graffiti on the surface of your life. Vengeance belongs to God. Let Him handle the situation. He can do it better than you.
Resource reading: Romans 12:1-21