Which form of revenge do you favor?
Revenge comes in three levels: (1) greater, (2) same, or (3) lesser. When our talent, treasure, or time is damaged, we are tempted to repay the offender with either greater, the same, or lesser damage to his resource of life. Revenge takes the matter into our own hands and removes it from God’s — the horizontal removed from the vertical.
The Apostle Paul taught: “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord. On the contrary: ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:17-21).
Revenge is the enemy of loving our neighbor — the greatest horizontal commandment (Leviticus 19:18) and the enemy of loving God — the greatest vertical commandment (Deuteronomy 6:5). Love, not revenge, fulfills the law (Romans 12:10; Galatians 5:14).
Forgiveness does not occur horizontally in relationships without first occurring vertically with God in Christ. So, we are not the one forgiving, or letting go. Christ in us lets go. In order to forgive others, we must first be forgiven by God. Freedom in Christ from the penalty, power, and, one day, the presence of sin leads to freedom in relationships with others (Matthew 6:12, 14-15).
Forgiveness frees us for reconciliation. Forgiveness always precedes reconciliation, but reconciliation does not always follow forgiveness because reconciliation takes two.
Forgiveness welds together two ideas: justice and mercy. Both are found in Christ and are displayed in their ultimate clarity at the cross. The key that unlocks the prison of withholding forgiveness is cross-shaped (humility toward God and others).
God let go in Christ the biggest debt ever incurred. There is a direct correlation between the amount that we perceive we’ve been forgiven vertically and how liberally or conservatively we forgive horizontally (Luke 7:41-43). Remember that Jesus was not standing idly by watching us be harmed; rather, He was being harmed with us (Hebrews 4:14-16; 10;10, 18).
Let go of small horizontal debts. Think of a setting where you have done, currently are doing, or would do someone harm in a similar fashion. Connect the offender’s sin with the sin in us.
Experience freedom from prison in our hearts. Do the instant forgiveness plan. For the next two weeks, instantly let go of every wrong committed against you (your talent, treasure, and time). You will be free.