Friday, April 1, 2011

40 Days of Lint, Day Twenty-One: Caught in Our Own Snare

We knew Vinny as a six foot something, tanned and muscular, Italian man with wild and curly black hair and thick mustache. He had a laugh that swept the room and bright blue eyes that sparkled with mischief. But he wasn’t always full of warmth and laughter.

Jesus Christ made a drastic change in him his very first week as a Christian. “I was driving on the freeway and a guy cut me off. My anger flared, but I wanted to stay in control, so I changed lanes. He had all kinds of room in his lane, but instead he whips in front of me. I had to slam on my brakes to keep from hitting him. Then I snapped! I rode his bumper until I ran him onto the shoulder. Before our cars even stopped I leaped from mine and yanked him out by the shirt. I pushed him up against his car and got right up in his face...”

Then he paused and smiled, his full mustache rising slowly in anticipation. “Then I remembered…I’m a Christian now! Any other time, I would have beaten the guy to a pulp, but now I didn’t know what to do. So I let him go and jabbed my finger in the air instead. 'It’s a good thing I’m a Christian or I woulda beat the ^*%&^amp; out of you !'” I gave his shirt one last jerk and got back in my car and drove off, shaking.” Maybe it wasn’t the purest witness, but for Vinny, it was a big change.

For the first time in years, he didn’t take revenge into his own hands. This is tough even for seasoned Christians. Our sinful nature wants to do unto others as they’ve done to us, and more. Interestingly, the oft quoted Old Testament scripture about “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” was actually introducing the concept of mercy, not revenge. Instead of one upping the one who hurt you, God’s Law insisted on punishment equal to the crime. In limiting revenge, God called His people to be different.

Then, giving mankind time to learn that even equal vengeance doesn’t bring peace, Jesus came along with a final command - to pray for our enemies, bless those who curse, and leave revenge up to God. The whole concept shocks us just as much now and it did two thousand years ago. We want to see the other guy suffer, even if only in our dreams. But God says we’ll never be free until we release our grip on revenge; it will destroy us if we don’t.

The nations have fallen into the pit they have dug;
   their feet are caught in the net they have hidden.
The LORD is known by his acts of justice;
   the wicked are ensnared by the work of their hands.
Psalm 9:15-16
We might be able to hide bitterness in our pocket …for a while. It’s possible to plot and scheme in our thought life while speaking love and forgiveness. But the desire to get even is an especially tenacious kind of lint and it won’t go away on its own. It can only be removed when we allow God to turn us inside out and wash it in His love. And not just once, but whenever new resentments collect in those hard to reach pockets.    

Lint Removed: Desire for Revenge
Cleaning Process: Leave Vengeance to God


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