It is a dish best served cold, or so we are told by the world. Perhaps that’s because when we do just about anything in the heat of anger we tend to make more of a mess than we ever could have imagined. But, hot or cold, there are some hard-learned lessons from revenge gone wrong.
A teenage girl was so upset when her younger brother told her parents that she had snuck out one night (and got her grounded) that she decided to put a BUNCH of their grandmother’s laxative into his breakfast shake. Except she then picked up the wrong shake and accidentally drank it herself. Some people take revenge to a much greater extreme. You may know that in his younger years Julius Caesar was kidnapped by pirates and held for ransom. After the ransom was paid, Caesar raised an army, raided the pirates’ island, captured the pirates and had them all crucified.
As a young and rash teenager, I flattened two tires of a vehicle that belonged to the father of one of my friends. His dad had abandoned the family to move in with his girlfriend, and I was angry.
Whether you’re prepared to crucify someone or only want to ruin their day, revenge is always going to cost you much more than you think. Someone has said that refusing to forgive and bearing a grudge is like drinking poison and hoping the other person dies. An apt image.
We are tempted to seek revenge because we expect that it will bring feelings of pleasure and release our anger. Unless you’re a psychopath, deliberately inflicting pain on another person is going to leave a scar upon you. You end up like the destitute man who thought that one good bank robbery would fix all his financial woes. But the exploding dye pack went off and stained all of the cash, the interior of his car, and him a bright red.
But God’s plan is different, and His plan is MUCH better. He teaches us and says “DO NOT SEEK REVENGE” and not to bear a grudge. The Lord’s Prayer even ties our appeal to forgiveness from the Father to our willingness to forgive those who have sinned against us. Christ warned us that, if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive you.
God’s command to us is that we be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave us our sins. The golden rule of “LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF” is a part of God’s instruction to Moses, as we see in the book of Leviticus. Love and forgiveness are the cure for anger and hate. I wish they were an INSTANT cure, but they are not. When I have been most deeply hurt I find that I must continually make the choice to forgive over and over again.
If the memory of a person or the mention of their name causes anger or resentment to rise up within me, then I know that the job of forgiving is not yet finished; and so I need to forgive them … AGAIN.
This process of forgiveness and release is for MY benefit. As I release them, I am the one who gets to leave the prison of pain.
I don’t know enough about the heart of Julius Caesar to speculate about the impact his decision to crucify his kidnappers had upon him. But I do know that Jesus loved you and I enough to accept crucifixion so that you and I could be set free from the sins that ruin our lives. Two records of historical crucifixion, both accounts tied to setting a prisoner free.
Knowing and believing the example with Caesar has no impact on our lives.
But knowing and believing the example with the example with Christ changes everything.