We’ve all experienced it. We’ve observed its wreckage from afar and felt its sting first hand. Wrong done in the name of right. Intentional harm from trusted hands. It bruises at the onset and rattles our being long after. Wounding sin.
Today found me wrestling unexpected thoughts of past experiences. Thoughts of harsh words spoken, lies told, accusations thrown, trust broken. While enjoying some java during the kids’ naps, this sudden flood began and with it, a wave of anger. It quickly grew from a steady simmer to a roaring boil. My heart raced with righteous anger against the utter nastiness of sin and its devastating effects, both in my life and the lives of loved ones. We all have been wronged at one time or another. And we all have done wrong to someone else. We are, after all, innately sinful. Nevertheless, this morning’s awareness of these offenses, some of which may never be rectified, left me frantic with frustration and nearly tachycardic in wanting justice served.
“In your anger, do not sin.”
But it’s wrong! It mocks Your Name! It harms undeserving people! It’s not right! Why do You allow such things to happen?!
“In your anger, do not sin.”
I know, Lord, I know. But I’m so angry! Emotions raged as memories raced. Some wounds fresh along with old scars resurfacing, reminding me of whence they came. Where was this coming from? And what in the world was I to do with it?!
“In your anger, do not sin.”
Over and again, the Lord whispered Ephesians 4:26 to my heart. In the midst of feeling the weight of others’ sins against me, I did not want to respond in like kind. I would be no better than those who caused the original harm. It would not leave me better off. It would bring NO honor to the Lord. None. But what to do…
I had no answers but knew I needed to go to Scripture to find them. Anything apart from that would simply be based in opinion and emotion. A trusted friend immediately came to mind. Ever since I first met Beverly Carroll, she has always spoken Biblical truth into my life, ever pointing me to Christ in times of wrestling. Today was no exception. I shared with her my consuming struggle, asking what passages had guided her when she faced wrongdoing.
James 1:19,20 2 Corinthians 10:5 Ephesians 4:25-27, 29-32
Beverly immediately pointed to passages that deal with such ugliness, mostly our response to them. As I scoured these verses, the Lord began calming my turmoil. The words turned my attention off of the wrongs done and onto the One who came to redeem all things. Slowly, my mind went from being consumed with the sins of others to dwelling on the One who forgave MY sins. What Beverly shared next diffused the fury burning within me, shifting my focus from the wrongs to the Redeemer. As I could not say it better myself, here is what she wrote:
“Matthew 5:23,24 instructs us to be reconciled, regardless. That means that we cannot indulge negativity or bitterness even when they are warranted and justified. Forgiveness is vital, required, even when the offenders don’t deserve it. God requires it. It is an act of obedience that can become our offering to the King. They may not deserve it. They simply benefit from our unwavering desire to please God. It cannot be done on our own. It is a supernatural gift, to “be not overcome with evil, but to overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21). 2 Peter 1:3,4 assures us that we have everything we need, in Christ, to live the lives He expects us to live. We are promised that that we don’t have to do it ourselves. We partake of the divine nature that is already in us. We don’t have to muster up love or forgiveness. We don’t have to remove our own bitterness. We simply partake of everything that is available to us in Christ. We help ourselves to His very nature thus enabling us to escape the very corruption you reference. I think, regarding these types of struggles, that victory is a daily laying down, much like surrender. It’s certainly not a once-for-all victory. But it does drive you to Christ repeatedly, and that fact, alone, helps us to count it all joy. It’s just one more example of the fact that God redeems what He allows.” Wow.
So what to do in response of wrongdoing? Forgive. Speak truth in love. Overcome evil with good. Not because it is deserved but because as our act of surrendered worship to God. Because while we were in the midst of our sin, Christ died for us. Because it reminds us yet again of our need for the Savior.
We all have been wronged. We all have wronged someone else. We all must run to Jesus in the midst of the mess. Only there can true healing, true forgiveness, true peace be found. To Him and Him alone be the glory for it.
“Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation. Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord. ‘But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.’
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”