Sunday, July 14, 2013

Revenge Is Not Always Sweet

So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.
James 1:19-20  NKJ
Slow to Wrath
In these particular verses, the word "wrath" comes from a Greek word which indicates deliberate and controlled anger which seeks revenge.  According to Vine's Dictionary, it "suggests a more settled or abiding condition of mind, frequently with a view of taking revenge.  It is less sudden in its rise than an outburst of anger but is more lasting in nature." 

This type of wrath likes to keep score of wrongs done, licking its wounds while biding the time until it can seek sweet revenge.  Its imagination likes to run rampant with possibilities of hurting someone with the same degree of pain that was inflicted on it.  When the timing is right it will humiliate someone in a deliberate assault, feeling completely justified by its actions.
The Bible gives us some good examples of those who were not slow to wrath:  think Cain, think Esau, think King Saul.  Each one of these men had something in common.  They knew what it was to in some way to be rejected by God and with the rejection came great pain.  Cain's sub par sacrifice was refused by God so he killed his brother because God accepted Abel's sacrifice.  As a result of bad decision-making, Esau was not God's choice as a father of Israel and, in the process of losing his birthright, wanted to kill Jacob whom God did choose.  Due to disobedience, King Saul lost his kingship and became enraged toward David who was to be the next king.  Unresolved, festering pain not only hurts others but also destroys the one who is wounded. 
For obvious reasons, James stated "for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God."  This type of wrath chokes out the fruit of right living in a Christian.  Vine's Dictionary explains "righteousness" as "the character or quality of being right or just; it was formerly spelled 'rightwiseness,' which clearly expresses the meaning."
It is indeed a wise person, walking in right-wise-ness, who recognizes when wrath wants to lash out and hurt someone else as a result of their own pain.  May our response be immediate in crying out to God for the healing of our own wounds; then may His grace and mercy remind us of where we've come so that we can extend forgiveness, grace and mercy to someone else.
Application of God's Word:

1.  It's easy to judge Cain, Esau and King Saul; after all, their motives and attitudes were wrong long before they sought revenge.  However, but for the grace of God, there go I so who am I to judge another?  Read Matthew 7:1-5.

2.  In your opinion, what leads a person to the kind of wrath where they want to lash out at someone and hurt them?

3.   Read Ephesians 4:26-32.  How can unresolved anger lead to wrath?  How does forgiveness play in being slow to wrath?

4.  Read Galatians 5:16-26.  How does the Holy Sprit help us when we find ourselves in a position to want to lash out in "outbursts of wrath" (see verse 20, NKJ).

Personal Matters:

Sigh.  I sure wish there weren't all these personal experiences from my own life to draw on when I need anecdotes.  On the other hand, I am a living, breathing example of a life radically changed by the redemptive work of Jesus Christ.  The old woman has indeed passed away and behold all things have become new (2 Corinthians 5:17).  Even then, I'm still a work in progress.  I am saved and I am being saved (sanctification) Pastor Chris stated this morning..."Please be patient with me, God isn't finished with me yet."

My older sister and I weren't the closest of sisters when we were children.  She always did everything right and I did everything wrong which was okay with me except for one thing...she always tattled on me.  A lot.  I spent a good portion of my childhood grounded to the house.  On several occasions my mother even mentioned to her that she needed to be careful because the day was coming when I would lash out and get even with her.  Now, you understand, my mother wasn't encouraging me to seek revenge.  I think she was frustrated with all the tattling and it was her way of telling my sister to knock it off.  Well, I picked that thing up and decided I really did have the right to get even with her.  I began to dream, think, and talk revenge.

When I was about nine years old, several neighborhood kids (we were a rough bunch...possibly the fruit of most of our families living with alcoholism and other abuses) were outside playing and evidently we were naughty.  I don't remember what our transgression was but it was something my sister felt our mom needed to know.  We were at a neighbors house and I stopped her from going home by throwing a blanket over her and asking the other kids to help me keep her under the blanket.  Somehow in the craziness of everything, they began hitting and kicking my sister.  Something inside of me justified what was taking place.  To be honest, I don't recall if I hit and kicked her but I do remember standing there with a smile on my face watching the other kids batter her.  Fortunately, an adult heard the raucous and stopped us before she was seriously hurt. 

I'm here to tell you, revenge is not sweet.  This incident is one of the greatest regrets of my life.  When it was over I immediately felt horror and shame for what took place because I knew that the wrath I inflicted on my sister was far worse than any of her tattling.  As an adult, I have asked my sister to forgive me and she has but I'm sure she carried deep scars from that incident.  She is a Christian now and the Holy Spirit has had to do an inward wok in her spirit and emotions to heal those wounds.

Let's face it, emotional and mental pain cuts deep.  Our human nature does want to lash out and seek revenge so it's important for us to understand the value of being slow to wrath.  Healing of these types of wounds usually doesn't happen overnight; therefore, we need to be patient as the Holy Spirit does an inward work (there's that phrase again).    The day will indeed come when we will be able to put our pain in better perspective to where it's not all-consuming and we will be able to extend forgiveness to the guilty person.  Until that time arrives, it will certainly complicate the healing process if we take things into our own hands and deliberately seek our own wrath.  Remember, if we lash out, we can't take it back when our pain begins to subside (again, a lesson I learned the hard way as a child).   When we are slow to wrath it gives God time to bring wholeness and soundness to our spirits.   

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