Years ago, when my sons were very young, my family and I used to watch a lot of baseball on TV. In many of those games, we witnessed pitchers deliberately hitting players on the opposite team with the ball. Sometimes, the unlucky victim was quick to retaliate with harsh words or punches. Other times, the player who was struck was calm and composed, and continued to do his best at the plate. No doubt, it was this player's goal to follow his coach's wise advice to exact the best revenge by hitting a home run off the offending pitcher, and beating the other team. This whole scenario came to mind recently when I was listening to a godly man preaching about forgiveness, and he said that when someone hurts us, forgiveness is ultimately the best revenge, because it liberates and empowers us to move into all God has for us. This man's words really spoke to my heart, and I made a quality decision that day that I was no longer going to let anyone or anything prevent me from receiving all the good things that the Lord had in store for me.
The Bible has a lot to say about the subject of forgiveness. One reason for that is because refusing to forgive others drives a wedge between us and God. It hinders our closeness and communication with Him. And it causes division between us and others, poisoning our relationships. Scripture says: "Let every man be quick to hear [a ready listener], slow to speak, slow to take offense and to get angry." (James 1:19 AMP) This verse contains some of the best advice we could ever apply to our relationships, but the part that I have had to remind myself of most is to be "slow to take offense". It seems as though in recent years, our society has tried to make becoming offended a virtue, and an honorable means of getting our needs met. But that's not God's way. His Word tells us: "A man's wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense." (Proverbs 19:11 NIV) Sometimes, in order for us to get the upper hand in a situation, all we have to do is refuse to get offended, and God will do the rest.
It has been rightly said that bitterness is like taking poison, hoping that your enemy will die. How stupid is that? And yet many of us do this very thing, by refusing to forgive someone after they hurt us. My husband, Joe, and I have been together for almost 40 years. You can't have an intimate relationship with someone for that long without hurting and offending each other at times. I decided a long time ago that when Joe and I have disagreements or arguments of any kind, I am going to forgive him quickly and thoroughly, so that I don't do myself harm. Perhaps that sounds selfish to you, but to me, it's simply the smart thing to do. And you know what? It's scriptural, too.
Scripture says: "If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you." (Proverbs 25:21-22 NIV) Here is a formula for getting the best kind of revenge when someone has hurt us. Instead of retaliating, we demonstrate the love of Christ, putting ourselves in a position to receive extraordinary blessings and rewards from God that we can't have any other way. The Bible reassures us that it pays to be kind: "The merciful, kind, and generous man benefits himself [for his deeds return to bless him]." (Proverbs 11:17 AMP) But look what it says will happen to troublemakers: "They make trouble, but it backfires on them. They plan violence for others, but it falls on their own heads." (Psalm 7:16 NLT) Let's face it, it's just plain smart to treat people right, even when we're not being treated right ourselves.
If each time someone upsets or wounds us, we ask the Lord how He would have us respond, we will usually sense Him telling us to pray for these people, and maybe even to extend an act of kindness that might get their attention and draw them to Him. Whatever it is, if we will do it with a good attitude, drawing on the supernatural power that abides in us through the Holy Spirit, we will be richly rewarded. And most importantly, the Lord will be glorified. I pray you'll put these principles to work the next time you're feeling hurt or offended, so that you may discover for yourself - revenge is sweet!
Prayer: Lord, when I'm tempted to harbor resentment or unforgiveness toward someone, remind me that my disobedience will shut off Your work in my life, and cause me to become stuck and stagnant. Remind me that my decision to forgive doesn't make them right, but it makes me free. I praise You, Lord, that the way of forgiveness is the path to progress, promotion, and peace!
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