Following Christ – not just on the streets, as in the name of this blog, but in everyday life – is the best kind of life I can imagine. Seriously. Sometimes, though, it would be so easy to turn around, walk away, pick a different path… because Jesus asks a lot. He asks us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. He asks us to forgive those who sin against us seventy times seven times, and that doesn’t mean to keep a tally; it means to forgive them every time – EVERY time. It isn’t easy.
We discussed this very topic recently in a Bible study I facilitated, discussing verses from Proverbs 24:29 (Do not say, “I will do to others as they have done to me; I will pay them back for what they have done.”) through Matthew 6:12 (And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.) and 1 Peter 3:9 (Do not repay evil for evil or abuse for abuse; but, on the contrary, repay with a blessing. It is for this that you were called—that you might inherit a blessing.) We talked about the idea that forgiveness is like a muscle that needs to be exercised, forgiving the same offense over and over again until it no longer haunts us.
This past week I’ve found myself living in the Psalms – not the Psalms of praise or lament, but the vengeful Psalms:
Lord, avenging God—
avenging God, show yourself!
Rise up, judge of the earth!
Pay back the arrogant exactly what they deserve!
For the sin of their mouths,
the words that they speak,
let them be captured in their pride.
For the curses and lies they repeat,
finish them off in anger;
finish them off until they are gone!
I was reminded that while it’s o.k. to “vent” – one of the lessons I believe can be learned from the vengeful Psalms – it’s important to be careful that’s all I’m doing. I can wander away for a little while, but like a toddler on a harness, God isn’t going to let me wander too far. Eventually, I can’t help but turn back to God and allow myself to forgive, to be soothed and comforted and, definitely, focus on praying for the person who has wronged me or someone I love.
Granted, it may have been easier to allow God to pull me back because I was feeling more hurt and betrayed and outraged than angry; my desire for revenge didn’t go all that deep. I have no doubt, though, that God keeps me on a pretty short leash. I’m not allowed to forget my own sins so easily, and I believe we’re all damaged in some way and for the most part are doing our best. Nobody really wants to be a bad guy, any more than I really want to walk away from following Christ.
Sometimes I think I want to turn around, pull away, break the bonds that tie me to an ethic and a moral code that require me to do the right thing… always. The truth is that being Christian is the greatest constant in my life. Although, like a spoiled child, I sometimes have fits of rage or selfishness, at my core I want to please my Heavenly Parent in everything I do. I’ll keep on following Christ – on the streets and, to the best of my ability, in the privacy of my own mind – and pray for mercy and grace, even for those who have wronged me.