@robertkwendt || lead pastor
Have you ever been a victim of bullying? Like many teenagers, I was picked on while playing football in high school.
I was an awkward kid. I was too much of an athlete to fit in with all the smart kids...but too much of a good student to fit in with the athletes. Throughout my time in high school, I tried fitting in and being popular—but in the end, I was just kind of awkward.
I'll never forget the big "shining" moment in my high school career. Following football practice, I made some type of awkward comment in the locker room that ended with numerous teammates trying to shove me into a locker.
After that incident, I became really annoyed with those teammates. In fact, I began to build a deep disgust for them because of what they had done. The world would tell me that my feelings were okay, were justified. What they had done was mean. However, as a follower of Jesus, I knew that I was called to live differently. My feelings toward them were not healthy and needed to resolve.
Quite removed from those awkward high school years, similar feelings rise up in me in some of the most common situations.
My wife or a family member say something in a way that gets me upset.
A friend cuts me down.
Someone who I trusted and respected shows a side of their personality that leaves me hurt and bitter.
In each of these cases, we have two options. We can try to leverage what the other person did to gain control of the situation, or we can forgive—and in so doing, give up complete control.
Forgiveness is hard and takes intentional effort. It cannot fully take place until we hand over control of whatever is causing division.
following jesus looks different.
When we walk with God, our lives should look different than those that are not walking with God. This doesn't mean we achieve some type of holy halo around our head, but it does mean that we treat the people around us differently. In fact, we act differently. We respond to hurt and pain differently.
Jesus Christ came from the lineage of a king by the name of David. David was known as a mighty warrior, king, and is a prominent figure in the Bible. While he was far from perfect, his life shows us how to walk with God, especially when it comes to forgiveness and the hurt we face because of other people.
In 1 Samuel 24, there is a powerful interaction that takes place between David and the first ever king of Israel, Saul. Here is a brief overview of the situation:
Saul was jealous of David and was on a mission to kill him. David was running from Saul. Any interaction between the two could easily have led to a battle royale. They eventually met in a cave (see 1 Samuel 24).
David was gathered with his men in the cave when Saul entered in order to go to the bathroom. In that moment, David's men told him that this was his opportunity. He could stop the chase and put an end to Saul in that very moment.
Imagine running for your life. Someone with power and authority is out to, not only to catch you, but to kill you. They want nothing to do with you than to kill you. What would you do if they came right into your presence without them even knowing it? Common thought may be that this is your moment to take them down, to gain control of the situation, to make things right. That's exactly what David's men thought. BUT, David was different. He chose not to kill Saul, but instead to cut a piece of his robe off instead.
David was kind to Saul. He only cut a little bit of clothing. Yet, he still felt guilty about it!
1 Samuel 24:5 says, "And afterward David's heart struck him, because he cut off a corner of Saul's robe." David did nothing wrong, yet his conscience was compromised and he had a punch to the heart. He felt like he had just done something bad. So what does David do?
He not only called out to Saul, but he bowed down before him.
When we're hurt, our gut instinct is often to strike. We want to pay someone back for what they did. However, as followers of God, we are called to live differently. Rather than striking the person, we are called to humble ourselves before them. Instead of striking a blow, we are to offer a bow.
leave revenge up to god.
Often we want to avenge someone so that they can get back what they deserve. If someone punches us in the face we have ever reason to punch them back. Right? Not according to Jesus. Here are his words:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’...But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. (Matthew 5:38-39 ESV)
When someone hurts us, as Christians we are not called to strike them, but to even offer up the other cheek. This seems insane because it is. It's different than the world would teach. The reason being, as followers of Jesus we are not to deliver revenge, but instead are to offer love. Revenge is for God to handle. He never asks us to bring payback, he simply asks us to spread his love.
Look at how David handles his situation.
He says to Saul, "May the Lord therefore be judge and give sentence between me and you, and see to it and plead my cause and deliver me from your hand (1 Samuel 24:15)." Instead of trying to carry out justice himself, he leaves it in God's hands.
This is not easy to do. There are many times when someone says something or does something to hurt me. Every part of me wants to lash out and pay them back for what they just did, but I have to remember that it's not my place to give justice. That is God's job.
2 Thessalonians 1:6 (NIV) says, "God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you."
Have you ever given or been victim of the silent treatment? I have tried this tactic a time or two when someone has hurt me. I may not pay them back with physical punishment or even verbal words, but rather I pay them back by saying nothing at all. In my head I think, "They will understand they hurt me when I just ignore them." However, in my many trials of this tactic I can assure you that it doesn't work.
In being silent, I am actually trying to take matters into my own hand. I am trying to gain control. In so doing, I am being the carrier of justice rather than God. This doesn't work well
What I have found works is this:
When situations arise that make you want to give someone the silent treatment, speak words of love instead.
it's our job to love.
When we seek forgiveness, when we make things right with someone we are showing love to them. David bowed before Saul. He left the justice up to God. David didn't try to change Saul's heart, but he simply showed him love and respect. The response...Saul wept. God changed his heart.
When David made the decision to speak to Saul and bow down before him rather than kill him, he was risking his own life. He did not know how Saul would respond. In fact, he was talking to a man who wanted to kill him. However, God worked through the love David showed. God changed Saul's heart. Things ended peacefully.
It's amazing what happens when we love people well. This requires forgiveness. Payback does not lead to anything but a never ending battle. However, love leads to change.
If we want to have healthy relationships, great family gatherings, and a Christmas to remember, then we should begin to love even when it is hard. We are to take a humble approach, bow before others, and seek forgiveness even when the situation may seem like we have every right to feel the way we do.
Unforgiveness only hurts ourselves. If we want to truly be freed from the bondage of the pain, than we must begin by forgiving those who hurt us.
Back in high school, I realized that fighting back was not going to get me anywhere. While I held on to my bitterness for a while, it only led to more pain, questions of self worth, and struggle. When I let it go, put it in God's hands, and realized those teammates who picked on me had battles of their own, it was freeing.
The only way to truly live a life free in Christ is to love and forgive the people who hurt us.
Remember this: our job is not to change people, it is to love them.