“Do not repay anyone evil for evil . . . Don’t be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good.” Romans 12
I’ve been wrestling with how to respond to Charlottesville and especially to the alt-right event in my city (San Francisco) this weekend. The easy thing would be to be overcome by the evil demon of hatred for the lunatics that wave confederate flags, don riot gear, and carry weapons and shouting “Jews won’t replace us!” That’s what my lower nature wants to do, repay hate with hate, even though Jesus prohibits it. That’s the definition letting evil overcome me, i.e. come over me, seep inside me and ruin me.
Jesus said labeling people “raca” gets us into trouble with God and with one another (Matthew 5). It’s an Aramaic word that is probably best translated “empty” or “worthless.” Jon Carlson said, “When we insist that others are ‘raca,’ that others are empty and worthless because they’ve given themselves over to evil, we don’t defeat their evil. We actually endanger ourselves, feeding into the very destructive tendencies we wish to overthrow.” That’s what it means to be “overcome by evil,” when we take on their evil by hating them with the same hate with which they hate us. Continue reading →
[If you haven’t read Part 1, I advise you to a take a few minutes to do so before reading on…]
The second problematic tendency is the opposite of the first. Instead of disrespecting our brothers and sisters of another ilk, we respect them so much that we justify our weak points. We assume that God called them to do pretty much all the evangelism or social justice or intimate worship. “That’s their ministry, their gift, what God called them to do. Thank God because I’m no good at that stuff.” I think it’s ill-advised to so focus our attention on one tool with that we abdicate responsibility to those with a more developed use of the other tools. Though some are more gifted and compelled by the Spirit toward one or the other of those emphases, we shouldn’t relegate to them our obligation for those things. Continue reading →
I was feeling pretty good about all this letting go stuff when I ran into a snag, one of the many snags in the Bible on which I’ve gotten hung up. I got to thinking about Jesus’ prayerfrom the cross, “Father, forgive them…” He didn’t look down at his wild-eyed crucifiers and say “I forgive you for what you’re doing to me.” When he asked the Father to forgive them his prayer was a light-year advanced beyond forgiving them himself. He prayed for the Father to let them off the hook. At first I thought, “I can let them off my hook, but I’m not going to ask God to let them off his! I’m not Jesus, so God wouldn’t expect me to go that far — Would he?” Continue reading →
We cannot go back and undo the damage of yesterday, but we can undo the damage it is causing today. We do that with the act of forgiveness.Steve Arterburn
We must develop the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies. Martin Luther King Jr.
[Disclaimer: I hope that the following doesn’t sound as if I’m implying that I am the one who had all the forgiving to do for our marriage breakup. In many ways I was as much at fault as she was for our failure to stay together and I hope she forgives me as much as I forgive her.] Continue reading →