Q. I’m having trouble reconciling the stories in the Old Testament where Israel stood up to her enemies and often called on the wrath of God to save them and the New Testament teaching of being kind to your enemies and turning the other cheek.
Although we are commanded to forgive and I understand fully the reasons for doing so, there is also a part of me that would want God to step in and be the vindicator; that there is a system of justice in the world.
My husband (a non believer) hurt me very deeply when he commited adultry and left me and my children to set up a new life. He periodically continues to hurt me when he withholds money and makes me feel in the wrong for asking – humiliating and belittling me to the point where I feel totally useless. Trying to follow God’s will for my life is seen as a weakness; Godly principles are dismissed as meaningless – seen through worldly eyes.
Forgiveness is difficult but necessary. I find myself though, in the same vein as the psalmist who asks how long this will continue. I want God to open my husband’s eyes and allow him to see what he is doing.
I look then to my Saviour who having been beaten, scourged and crucified, appealed to His father to overlook the crimes of his enemies. This makes me feel ashamed and that God is disappointed in me for not handling things better. I know God’s anger will be unleashed on those who persecute his beloved, but are we to ask for their forgiveness nontheless and does this apply to people who hurt us on a personal level? Like God, is there a time when our patience should come to an end or are we truly to forgive 70 times 7?
A. This is one of those hard to understand things that goes counter to human nature. The Lord did tell us to forgive each other as many as 70 X 7 times. (Matt. 18:22). And He also said that vengeance is His, that He will repay in kind the wrong done to you. (Hebrews 10:30).
He did this for two reasons. He knows that by harboring anger and resentment we hurt only ourselves, so He commanded us to forgive, to not let the Sun go down on our anger. But He also knows we need closure on things, so He promised to take vengeance on our behalf, to get even for all the wrongs done to us. In the mean time, remember that nothing has changed since the Old Testament times except the weapons we use in our battles. What was external and physical in the Old Testament became internal and spiritual in the New.
Satan uses our relationship problems to persecute us, to steal away our joy. In your case it’s your ex-husband. As long as it works, Satan will keep using him to get to you. To beat this you have to master three strategies and apply them diligently.
1. Your ex is just a helpless pawn who should be pitied, not feared. Begin asking God to forgive him and save him, even though you don’t feel like it. You’re not battling against flesh and blood here but against spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms (Ephesians 6:2) This is a spiritual battle and you have a Champion fighting for you, but you have to help.
2. Satan currently has a stronghold in your anger from which he can attack you whenever he wants to. But you have weapons with the divine power to demolish strongholds. You can take your thoughts of anger and resentment captive and make them obedient to Christ (2 Cor. 10:3-5) You can resist the devil and he’ll flee from you (James 4:7)
3. By making a conscious effort to focus on the good things in your life and giving thanks for them, using them to force bad thoughts out of your mind, you can restore your peace even in times of persecution. (Philippians 4: 4-9) And your enemy, who knows when he’s fighting a losing battle, will flee. So will your ex-husband. Winner and still Champion, Jesus the Christ, but the victory goes to you.