In a recent “Preaching” magazine (pg.43) a story is told about a 5 – year-old boy who misbehaved. His mother decided to give him some quiet time to think about his poor actions. She had a large closet where she pushed back the hangers and made room for a chair to sit in for his “timeout.” She turned on the light and told him he had to stay in there for 30 minutes. She heard strange noises coming from inside the closet, then, everything got quiet. The mother was curious so she opened the door and said “Jimmy what you are doing in there?” The little boy replied defiantly, “I just pulled all of your clothes down and spit on them. I spit on your shoes too. Now I am just sitting here waiting on more spit!”
It is in our nature to hate being corrected or reprimanded – even if we are wrong and need it. We have this defensive reflex action that kicks in striking out at anyone or anything we perceive has wronged us. Frankly, we just hate to be told what to do so we fantasize about them “getting theirs.” We dream of our “enemies” in all kinds of awkward situations causing them embarrassment, making them say socially inept comments, having them dressed funny while experiencing all kinds of misery. Working to justify our actions in this little fantasy world we always come out the hero vanquishing our foe to humiliation. Realistically, though, what really is happening is that we are just trying to work up spit!
It is hard to forgive slights or outright injustices against us and even more difficult to actually forget them. We tuck these incidents snugly away into a little compartment in our hearts reserved specifically for righteous indignation. We may declare something not to be a big deal but it is if we are unable to let it go. Three things can happen to these treasured affronts clutched tightly in our hearts against other people.
If we crowd these slights into our hearts one upon another never to be released our hearts fester and become hardened, packed with impurities causing bitterness. We cannot be disciples of Jesus while harboring unforgiveness. Luke 14:33 says “…any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.” This includes the contents of our heart.
Some of us get to that point where our spit reservoir gets refilled coming back on line ready for battle. With lips puckered and a deep breath we are ready for retaliation against anyone that offends us. Unashamedly I say this attitude and action breaks God’s heart and stymies His ability to bless us. 1 Peter 3:9 declares “Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessings because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. “ In other words keep your spit (revenge) to yourself and battle offenses with kindness or God will not honor you.
The real solution for followers of Christ is to outright and thoroughly forgive and forget offences against us. Jesus pointedly instructs us in His “Sermon on the Mount” found in Matthew 6. Starting with verse 14 He announces “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, the Father will not forgive your sins.” How clear is that? If you can make it through life and not be wronged, offended or have your itty bitty feelings hurt you must be a hermit and probably won’t be reading this. If you are reading this you may be offended from the opening word or you may agree with me. Undoubtedly, if you are around other people you will get hurt. How are you going to handle it to honor God? How are you going to handle it while expecting God to bless you? Hoarding these slights cost us being disciplined by Jesus. Exacting revenge precludes Jesus from blessing us. Forgiveness is loving action after God’s own heart. Need practice? For all of the stupid things I say and do I will graciously accept any forgiveness you have for me.
This weekly devotion is written by John Key