The faithful have been swept from the land; not one upright person remains. Everyone lies in wait to shed blood; they hunt each other with nets.
~Micah 7:2 NIV~
Sadly, this seems to be true not only for Israel way back then, but also for the here and now. I was just at the grocery store and as I was checking out, a lady who used to work with me many lifetimes ago looked at me and said, “So what have you been doing?” I thought to myself, “Well, I don’t know…shopping?” But I said to her, “Oh the usual, just working.” This woman hardly ever speaks to me when she sees me in the store, but I could tell she was just dying to tell me something. So I stood there and waited for it. She then proceeded to share with me a bit of juicy gossip about a lady we used to work with. This was someone whom she obviously didn’t like, because she took great joy in telling me that the lady had been fired for embezzling nearly a million dollars from the company we used to work for. I was surprised to hear the news, but I didn’t take as much joy in it as she had expected and she seemed somewhat disappointed when all I said was, “Oh, that’s terrible.” But to me, it really was terrible. This person hadn’t been a favorite of mine either, but instead of taking satisfaction in the fact that she had finally been brought down a few notches, I just felt bad for her. I nearly said that I would pray for her, but it occurred to me that the idea of praying for someone who had once treated us so badly would have been lost on this woman. She was still grinning from ear to ear as I told her to have a good night and made my way out of the store.
There was a time when I would have laughed right along with her and probably would have felt pretty good about this woman’s unfortunate situation. But today, as I am now, it didn’t feel like something that should be celebrated…at least not for the reasons she was celebrating. Today, the words to that beautiful song, Hosanna, began running through my mind and I could definitely understand what it meant to feel heartbroken over the very things that must break our Father’s heart. There is nothing funny about someone else’s brokenness. It is not something that we should ever rejoice in and it certainly isn’t our opportunity to gloat. Much like Miss Celie in The Color Purple, our response when someone who has been terrible to us in the past finally gets their comeuppance should not be anything short of amazement in how God brings things back around followed by a sense of reverence for His sovereign authority in all things. God always takes care of His children. And those people who hurt us, yes, the “terrible” people, they are His children, too. What appears to us to be their punishment, may actually be a key moment in their deliverance, so we should be more interested in watching what He is doing in their lives and hearts than in taking pleasure in the fact that they may finally be hurting as much as they once hurt us.
I used to be all about holding a grudge. I could carry around anger and hatred better than almost anyone I knew. If you had wronged me, you could almost expect that I was somewhere plotting your demise and that if someone else was able to bring you to justice before I could work it out myself, I would be greatly disappointed that I hadn’t gotten my chance to get revenge. After all, wasn’t it my right to avenge myself against those who had wronged me? The devil would certainly have liked for me to continue on in my life with that attitude. It’s a full-time job plotting your revenge against those who have caused you misfortune. We can spend countless hours hashing and re-hashing all of the details of how an old boyfriend “did us wrong” or how our boss failed to appreciate us or how the world in general just doesn’t seem to get how truly wonderful we are. There is so much that needs to be dealt with when we are treated badly and we can’t be expected to just wait around for God to handle it. Ah, the injustice of it all.
There are so many of us who waste our lives trying to take God’s place in the judge’s seat. We forget or perhaps, we never really understand, that only God has the authority and the power to truly judge us. We can be judgmental toward one another and we can bring down our own sentences of exile and torture against those we deem worthy of our scorn. But we are the ones who actually end up suffering in those prisons. We are the ones who are chained to that hateful spirit until we can drag ourselves into God’s presence and beg Him to finally free us from the walls we have built around ourselves. Walls that lie between us and what could have been a great life. Unforgiveness is a prison. It is a pit of despair for the one who holds back grace and mercy. It doesn’t hurt the ones who hurt us nearly as much as it holds our wounds wide open and allows every infectious thought, emotion, and action to enter into our spirit and keep us in a place of perpetual sorrow. It’s all very dramatic and dark…and sad. And it breaks His heart…no matter how closely we are walking with Him when we are in it. It breaks His heart because it creates distance where we need to be close. It creates hopelessness where we need to have faith. It creates sadness where there needs to be joy. And none of it is necessary.
So the next time someone wants to share a little piece of their misery with you, take that opportunity, as I should have today, and try to help them understand why you’re a little more concerned with why they would be so happy that someone else is hurting than the fact that a “sworn” enemy has been cut down. Try to help them see that there really are better things to focus on than revenge. Surprise them by not wanting a ticket to ride on their crazy train. Even if those tickets are free, they aren’t worth the detour.
Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy.
~Micah 2:18 NIV~