Vengeance and Forgiveness and Getting Love Done

A Short Study on Why and How to Love

God’s judgment is mercy in that it protects finally those who have taken refuge in His love. So you could say that even in God’s judgment He is love. That is some kind of love. But what about us? How are we to deal with love and judgment and making things “right” in our lives? Our calling is to love God above all else and to love God means to trust Him and His timing for everything else – including that final day in court for this world and those who have offended us. It means that we trust Him to love us in the proper way and in the best way in the end. So logically we must leave some things up to God. That is where the ultimate job of judging must go – into the hands of an all knowing and all powerful God, knowing thing escapes His gaze and He is perfectly holy so He will judge. We must trust Him for that and only judge with righteous judgment so long as it is in accordance with our own sphere of responsibility. see John 7:24

We are told to judge ourselves and the church under the leadership of the local church. 1 Peter 4:17 says it well – “For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God?”

The passage in John 7:24  “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment” asserts that there is a righteous judgment for us now. (and it is more than implied in Matthew 18) We are also promised the Holy Spirit which will lead us into all truth in John 16:13 so that by His provision we can judge in a righteous fashion in the sphere we are responsible for. Parents are to judge in a right way among their children. Our love is to abound all the more in knowledge and all discernment. That discernment is rooted in the Scriptures as we are led and shepherded by the Holy Spirit each day.

Paul puts the proper focus onto judging ourselves first and foremost: 2 Corinthians 13:5 says to “examine yourself…” The genuine Christian spends a lifetime allowing the Lord to illumine the innermost parts of his life by exposing himself daily to the Word of God so that thoughts and intentions and motives can be properly judged. This is in line with 2 Corinthians 10 that commands us to take every thought captive to the obedience of Jesus Christ.

Having a judgmental attitude or lifestyle, however, is forbidden by James 4:12: “There is one Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy. Who are you to judge another?” ( see also Romans 14:4) The previous verse in James 4 is even stronger, “Do not speak evil of one another, brethren. He who speaks evil of a brother and judges his brother, speaks evil of the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge.”

Forgiving Love is Key 

Proverbs 17:9 says “He who covers a transgression seeks love,

But he who repeats a matter separates friends.”

Jesus taught that we are to forgive one another – if we don’t we won’t be forgiven. In Matthew 6:14 Jesus said that if we forgive we will be. We are also told to be completely forgiving- Matthew 18:22 (seventy times seven – seven is perfect or complete in scope) and Jesus modeled that all the way to the end of his life by pouring out complete forgiveness to the seeking thief on the cross. During His life He taught his disciples that “by this will all men know that you are my disciples if you have love for one another.” John 13:35

The greatest motivation for us is how much and to what extent we are forgiven. He has completely freed us from the bondage and threat of judgment because He has forgiven us completely. This kind of love – a complete forgiving love –  is the key to the amazing spiritual bounty we have in Christ – who has given us all things richly to enjoy. He has given us every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. Paul spends seven chapters explaining the gospel in his letter to the Romans and then leaps into exultation as chapter eight closes. In a hymn of praise that is also full of exhortation, He exclaims “if God is for us who can be against us?” He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” Indeed we do have all things that accord life and godliness in our Savior!  All of this would be impossible if He had not forgiven us on the basis of His death on the cross. He was able to forgive because He paid the price and He paid the price because He loved us. He made the choice to love knowing full well the tremendous price.

Isn’t it actually a very  small price for us to pay to love and forgive – a little pride or a little fury – when it cost Jesus His very life? Isn’t it worth it to give your brother or sister the benefit of the doubt and not judge them because Christ is not judging you?  He knows your deeds and innermost thoughts and still loves you! Take that love and give it away. You will see His love multiply that way and that is what it is all about.

Deuteronomy 23:35 says “Vengeance is mine.” That settles it, it belongs to the Lord – but the New Testament goes beyond as does Jesus in His teaching. We are to overcome evil with good not by taking revenge and therefore trying to take His place.

Romans 12:19-21
Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 Therefore

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;

If he is thirsty, give him a drink;

For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.”

21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Our lives are to be what Jesus’ life was. He taught truth and went around doing good. That good overcomes evil – if not in this life in the next one. It will be an influence for good now or a witness for God’s goodness and mercy in the next even in the midst of the flames of hell.

Paul said I have become all things so that I might win “some.” Oh for that precious few who will see Jesus in our hands and feet as unworthy as they are. We live “for things above.” Us taking vengeance now means we are not fully trusting God to take care of His responsibility for justice in His timing. Whatever is not of faith is sin.

John reveals that God is love and we know that He is perfect and right and just. We can trust His infinite love to always do right in the end – even if He allows men freedom for a short time to do evil. Maybe like the Roman who after he helped crucify the Lord some will see the love of God through us and exclaim with us, “sure this man was the Son of God!”

I close with two simple steps:

One is found in Jesus’ revolutionary teaching: from Matthew 5

Let’s call it “KNOW THE TRUTH

38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. 40 If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. 41 And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. 42 Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away.

Jesus’ teaching is so straightforward. He is crystal clear – overcome evil with good.

The second step let’s call  “DO THE TRUTH in Me

Jesus also taught  “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.

There is no way in the world we can carry out such a task as this accept that we abide in Him and are receiving from His divine power to be this kind of witness. Without Jesus’ power, we can do nothing – and “not taking vengeance”  when we are wronged is something.

When we do this – we fulfill the law of Christ and that is truly something. We are moving towards Jesus will for us to love as we are loved. We are becoming His disciples and what a good thing to be known for! This is the kind of love that “never fails.” (1 Corinthians 13)
Oh to see that love more fully demonstrated in our churches, in our families, in our hearts!

To God be the Glory, great things He has done!

By His grace and love and by His forgiveness let’s get His love done for His great glory!

Amen

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