From Rev Dr Tom Nibbe
just a touch of humor as we get started...
"...do not hate your brother in your heart...do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your
people, but love your neighbor as yourself, I am the Lord!" Leviticus 19:17a,18
"...if the light within you is darkness, it is, indeed, a most profound darkness..." (Jesus). Matt. 6:23 b
"...forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us..." (Jesus). Matthew 6:12
"...but the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure, then peace-loving, considerate,
submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere..." James 3:17
"Dear God, please make all bad people good...and all good people nice...Amen!". (a little girl's prayer)
Today --- I will be as angry as I need to be, with a goal of taking care of my unfinished business with others, especially those who have sorely offended me. Once I have released the hurt and anger I feel, I am going to strive for healthy forgiveness...that is...forgiveness with boundaries. I have come to understand that boundaries, coupled with deep-riven forgiveness and the compassion poured down upon me by the Holy Spirit will move me forward. I thank you for the divine wisdom that truly frees me from feelings that used to imprison me. Continue to teach me your ways, so that I may overcome in all things, and live your truth. In Jesus' name, Amen.
"...there is so much good in the worst of us and so much bad in the best of us--that--it behooves none of
us to say anything evil about the rest of us..." (Anonymous)
No matter how long we've been a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ...no matter how solid our Spiritual grounding may be...it's my hunch, not only as a pastor, but as a human being, we still feel an overwhelming desire to punish, or get even, with the very person who's offended us.
Even otherwise extremely sophisticated individuals fall into inappropriate behavior, sometimes to the extreme, because they have not been exposed to the freeing nature of God's Word and the teaching regarding anger and revenge.
I've been working at a "faith life" for seventy-seven years, and I hate to say it, but it is true...we want to see the other person hurt the way he or she has hurt us. We want to see circumstances deal that person their just rewards. In fact, we'd like to "help" those circumstances out. We not only want somebody to be punished...we want to assist in dealing out the judgement.
O, I get it...you're just not that way at all...but I do admit that I've had those feelings...and I know...thanks to God's Word and the Holy Spirit...I have been freed to have wisdom about what hangs many people up in life...and that it is not necessary.
Unfortunately anger and the need for revenge are normal feelings. The thing is...we don't need to act on them. Ah, so then...we get it...it's perfectly normal to have such feelings, but it's not okay to act out on them. The question may be, how do we get to the point where we have mastered this technique.
(I'd like to call it a spiritual discipline.)
Everybody gets angry. Everybody. Even Jesus got angry - John 2:13-16 - and we affirm that Jesus was without sin...interesting! How freeing it is to understand this principle of human nature. In order to control anger, we need to accept it as one of the necessary realities of life and note that the Bible provides a way, once we have come to a point of acceptance about anger, that we can finally get a handle on it.
As matter of fact, the Bible teaches us "to get angry", but not to sin - Ephesians 4:26. Now how do we get to that...how do we accomplish that and put it into practice. Isn't this simply "bible double-talk"? The answer is...No. We allow ourselves to feel the anger and accept it without having to act out on it.
We pause...rather than act upon it with one of those automated responses.
We take time to reflect on what has happened.
The goal we strive for is to release the feeling --- by feeling it --- and be finished with it. In the process, God teaches us and we know better and much clearer, because He knows us inside and out, and would never give us anything that was unnecessary for us. Often it is indeed a hard lesson to learn. Once we admit and accept what is happening to us, being brought from darkness into the light through Scripture, we can simply let it go.
Take whatever time is necessary to do so. How refreshing it is to know that God understands and is guiding us with divine insight. We've been given the wisdom that anger is not a sin --- that is...not a sin...unless --- we act out on what we are feeling. Indeed, there is a direct connection between anger & wanting revenge.
This complex feeling...the connection between anger and revenge...is something we all experience, whether believers or not. Just because Dad or Mom may be a psychiatrist, it doesn't mean we automatically have a competitive edge in dealing with the "give-and-take" of life and what is natural for us as human beings.
The point is, it is not our job to deal out justice to those who have offended us. We need to learn that. We need to learn that it is natural to be angry, it is natural to seek revenge...and it is supernatural and attainable to know how to master it.
Note the process of dealing with offenses in Matthew 18:15-17: "If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church, and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector."
Yes, we need to hold the other person accountable and responsible. At the same time, once again, it is not our responsibility to be judge and jury. Actively seeking revenge won't help us. It will eventually "block us up" and "lock us up" so we end up in our own unique style of straight-jacket. It will eventually make us strangers to our most intimate circle of close friends...and set us apart from our family members.
After settling into what another person's offense has done to us, put what has offended us in writing, and/or, go directly to the person who has offended us and reasonably explain what has happened. Please now refer back to the teaching in Matthew 18:15-17. Often we gain a new, reliable, understanding friend. Nonetheless, we need to be prepared for any kind of reaction...
In any case...
Walk away from confrontation. Let "game-time" take place on Saturday afternoon at the football stadium. Unhook. Learn a valuable lesson from the situation. In your mind, thank the offender for having taught you something valuable...and...be finished with it! Put it behind you as you keep that learning experience intact.
What have I learned about anger and the alternative to revenge? How has Jesus helped me?
Acceptance, to me, is essential. We need to rejoice in our victories in life, and we need to accept what has befallen us. What has been helpful to me through the years is Saint Paul's reflection:
"...and we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose..." Romans 8:28
It's not like the foreign notion of "karma" which teaches, "...you get what you deserve..." What I have come to understand from the Judeo-Christian tradition is --- we don't get what we may deserve from our loving, understanding, wise God...the Lord only provides good for us. We don't deserve it, but we get it anyway.
The difference between those who know this...and those who live in the darkness of spiritual ignorance...is that those who trust in the goodness of God in their lives don't have to question whether what is happening to them is either good or bad. Whether the circumstance in life is pleasant or unpleasant, they know it's all part of God's plan of remarkable goodness for their lives. It appears at times that we seem to be punished by those unpleasant and sometimes overwhelming circumstances, but when we take Saint Paul's verse to heart, trusting the Lord God in the midst of the unpleasantness, He will provide unexpected blessing to flow from the suffering and He will provide full understanding. The higher the barrier in terms of attempting to understand, the greater the amazement and marvel to our human mind and spirit in the final analysis.
"...even though He were to slay me, yet will I praise Him..." Job 13:15
This verse from the classic text of the Job narrative is a bottom-line in the experience of genuine faith.
Are you at a point in your life where you can make the same affirmation as Job in the Old Testament?
It determines the difference between the experience of mere religion and the edification of genuine faith!
Whether or not we deserve to be punished is not the question. When we trust in God despite our fallen humanity, we can always know God will only provide good for us. Sorry --- for those attempting to earn God's love and salvation by all those good deeds --- God loves those who trust in Him and those who love Him...we are saved always by His grace Ephesians 2:8-9. Sorry --- for those who are depending on God for exemption from the difficult, confusing, dangerous, uncomfortable and tragic things of life...
"..though now, for a little while, you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials...these have come so that your faith --- of greater worth than gold --- which perishes even refined by fire, may be proved to be genuine.." 1 Peter 1:6-7
Forgiveness, also, is essential. When I say this I don't mean the kind of forgiveness that will invite the offender to use us again. It is a forgiveness that releases the other person and sets him or her free to take another path. In the meantime, it releases our anger and resentment. This sets us fee to walk our own path without a residue of negativity to weigh us down and cause us to be less than joyful and at peace.
Saint James writes, "Remember this: whoever turns a sinner from the error of his or her way will save that person from death and cover over a multitude of sins." James 5:20
Conflict and offense are unavoidable. They will always be with us,no matter who we are. We have the pleasure of receiving the great spiritual message that it is no sin to be angry or to have thoughts of revenge. The offense comes in acting upon those feelings. I am so glad that Jesus got angry, and in of all places, the temple. I am relieved to know that when feelings of anger and revenge come upon me, I have a clear option to do the right thing, to do things God's way, and to eventually experience resolution and blessing, where without God's help, I would always do the wrong thing, and end up imprisoning myself by my words, by my actions, and by my eventual feelings of guilt over what I had said and done.