Police shows have succeeded cowboy shows in our imagination. Roy Rogers used to leap on his faithful steed Trigger and barrel away after Black Jack Jenkins or Black Jack Somebody-Or-Other. A hoof-pounding horse chase followed.
Today Tom Hanks jumps in his Ferrari and squeals and screeches through the streets chasing Black Jack’s cinematic children.
I think one reason we like cowboy movies is that they give us such a sense of fulfillment, at least the cowboy movies before 1965. The bad guy always gets it in the gizzard at the end and he’s paid back for all the evil he’s done. Things are evened up.
In high school our glorious team got stomped 59-6 by the Murfreesboro Rattlers one year. I may have already told you that but I was really marked by that beating. The next year we came back and beat them 44-0. You can look it up in the annals of the Nashville News. Our theme that year was, “We ain’t forgetting!”
What a good feeling to even up the accounts like that.
Except when I analyze it, it’s not really what the Lord taught. Vengeance?
Instead of striking back Jesus forgave. Stephen forgave those heaving the rocks that tore the life from him. Pardon is a different world.
“Yeah,” you answer. “If we do it like that, the score will never get evened up. The bad guys will always win.”
Does God just let things pass? We forgive and the person who hurts others goes off tip-toeing through the tulips? Nope. The Lord just says that vengeance belongs to Him. He’s the scorekeeper and the score ‘evener-upper.’ If you take vengeance you elect yourself God. Many people, who would never think of stealing worship which belongs to God, constantly steal His right to exact vengeance.
When I take vengeance I say that I’m so smart that I understand everything. I see the deepest motives of everyone’s heart. I’m 100% right so I can decide that the other person in this situation is completely wrong and I have the right to get them.
And as long as we’re talking about it, what about the times I’ve wronged God and others?
That has actually happened, you know.
It’s very satisfying when Black Jack Jenkins gets it in the end but when the gizzard that gets it is Black Jack Porter’s, that’s quite another thing.
Truth is, I had sinned against God and I deserved eternal punishment, but Jesus took it in the heart for me.
If God did that for me and I hold something against my wife, my children, my pastor, my friend, my co-worker, that idiot who honked at me at the red light, the person who cheated me, who manipulated the situation to get ahead of me, who abused me, who …(add your hurt because we all have them), well, who is to say that God doesn’t have the right to take vengeance against me?
Over and Over
And we play the film of that day over and over in our mind with the desire to see that person suffer at the end of the day.
Every time we replay the story he hurts us again. Jesus forgave us so that we could come to his Father. Forgiveness resets our heart to the ‘factory settings.’ It does more than that though.
The person who doesn’t forgive is like someone caught in the gears of a giant machine which turns him round and round and he can never escape. What happened crushes him again and again, replaying itself constantly in his mind.
Until he forgives. Then he gets loose.
And we can forgive because we’ve tasted the powerful fruit of forgiveness in our own life when Christ forgave us our sins. The seeds of that fruit are still in our soul and they will spring to life if we want them to. We may have to forgive every day and several times a day for a period, but we must. Otherwise unforgiveness and the desire for revenge will eat out our insides.
So, the other guy gets off scot free after what he did?
No, you just leave him to the Lord. Vengeance belongs to Him.
Funny thing, though. When forgiveness sinks its roots deep into our heart, we often have a hard time enjoying the disaster of the one who hurt us. We’d rather see the Lord forgive this person and change his life. That’s more important than the sweet vengeance of seeing his downfall.
I’m working on it. I’ll confess, though, that I’m still having a hard time feeling sad that we got the Rattler’s back that year. Maybe football falls into another category. Ya think so?
“All accounts do not have to be balanced in this life. God has all eternity to make things right. And knowing God, His reward will be much greater than we deserve!” Leon Hiebert