Never pay back evil for evil… never avenge yourselves. Leave that to God, for he has said that he will repay those who deserve it. Romans 12:17, Romans 12:19
Bitterness and a hard heart builds a lonely house. Space enough for one person with a life full of misery. But God’s healing can get us out of the house of spite and toward spacious ways of grace.
Maybe you’re going through a deep mess, and wonder can He really help. This history of abuse? This raw anger? This seething disgust I feel? Can God heal this hurt in my heart?
Joseph asked these questions. He never forgot his ten brothers giving him the heave-ho. They walked away and never came back! So, when he saw them in the breadline, he snapped at them. He accused them of treachery and threw them in jail.
Isn’t it good to know that Joseph was human? The guy was so good. He endured slavery, succeeded in a foreign land, mastered a new language, and resisted seductions. He was the model prisoner and the perfect counselor to the king. We almost expect him to see his brothers and declare, “Father, forgive them”. But he didn’t. He didn’t because forgiving jerks is the hardest trick in the bag.
Sometimes it’s not easy. How do we reconcile deep pain with God’s command to forgive? Isn’t some retribution in order? Of course, and God cares about justice and execute it on behalf of truth and fairness.
Judah, who had trapped Joseph, had three sons. He arranged for the eldest to marry a girl named Tamar. But the son died. Judah arranged for his second son to marry Tamar. The son didn’t manage the situation well and died. Judah assumed Tamar was jinxed. Afraid that his third son would meet the same fate, Judah put the matter on hold.
Later Tamar heard that Judah was coming to town. Apparently she decided to get creative, disguised herself as a prostitute and made him an offer. Judah took the bait. He exchanged his necklace and walking stick for sex, unaware that he was conceiving a child with his daughter-in-law.
Judah was caught in his own sin. Things had come full circle. Judah, who had trapped Joseph, was trapped. Judah, who had helped humiliate Joseph, was humiliated. God gave Judah his just punishment, and Joseph didn’t have to lift a finger or swing a fist.
God can discipline your abusive boss, soften your angry parent or bring your ex to their senses. God never gives up. Long after we’ve moved on, God is still there, probing the conscience, stirring conviction, always orchestrating redemption.
Forgiveness doesn’t diminish justice, it just leaves it to God. Forgiveness vacillates with fits and starts, good days and bad. Anger intermingled with love. Irregular mercy. Step forward and fall back. But it’s okay. As long as you are trying to forgive, you are forgiving. It’s when you no longer try that bitterness sets in.
Stay the course. You’ll spend less time in the lonely house and more in the grace house.