O God, the nations have invaded your inheritance; they have defiled your holy temple, they have reduced Jerusalem to rubble. They have given the dead bodies of your servants as food to the birds of the air, the flesh of your saints to the beasts of the earth. They have poured out blood like water all around Jerusalem, and there is no one to bury the dead. We are objects of reproach to our neighbors, of scorn and derision to those around us.
How long, O LORD? Will you be angry forever? How long will your jealousy burn like fire? Pour out your wrath on the nations that do not acknowledge you, on the kingdoms that do not call on your name; for they have devoured Jacob and destroyed his homeland.
Do not hold against us the sins of the fathers; may your mercy come quickly to meet us, for we are in desperate need. Help us, O God our Savior, for the glory of your name; deliver us and forgive our sins for your name’s sake.
Why should the nations say, “Where is their God?” Before our eyes, make known among the nations that you avenge the outpoured blood of your servants. May the groans of the prisoners come before you; by the strength of your arm preserve those condemned to die.
Pay back into the laps of our neighbors seven times the reproach they have hurled at you, O Lord. Then we your people, the sheep of your pasture, will praise you forever; from generation to generation we will recount your praise.
Wouldn’t it be nice if the Lord would avenge wrongs done against us in real time? Well in a way that does happen. A pastor friend of mine told me of a recent situation that illustrates the point.
A couple had been the focus of controversy some years previously and had left his congregation over it. Recently they came back, asking for forgiveness and restoration. Almost everyone immediately received them with open arms, but there was one small group of holdouts that was determined not to forgive and restore them. Little by little the couple won most of them over too, and it seemed as if the restoration would be complete.
Then came a Sunday when the couple received a few moments of attention during the service in connection with a ministry they’re involved in. One of the holdouts strongly criticized the pastor for permitting this, saying it had ruined her Sunday worship. As it happens, this person hadn’t become a member of the congregation until a year or two after the controversy, but she was a friend of someone who was, and had “heard all about it.”
So for several years now this person has been upset and angry over a situation she had no part in, and just the reminder of it was enough to destroy her weekly time with the Lord. She was still angry enough the next day to send off a scathing letter to the pastor, and who knows when or if she’ll ever get over it?
My question is, who’s being afflicted here? Yes, the pastor was disappointed that a member of his flock isn’t getting his message of forgiveness. And yes this person will try to get the other holdouts all spun up again. But isn’t she the real victim here? It’s her heart that’s becoming calloused and hardened, it’s her spirit that’s being quenched, and it’s her fellowship with the Lord that’s being interrupted. The couple she’s so upset with doesn’t even know her, and if they do find out how she feels, they’ll just pity her. I mean, to invest all that negative energy in something that didn’t even concern her seems to be such a waste.
So, did the Lord send down fire from heaven to consume her for attacking that couple? Well, not directly. But has her failure to obey His commandment to forgive given the devil a foothold in her mind that he can use to rob her of her joy? And will he use it to contaminate other areas of her life as well? Absolutely. We’ve all met folks whose anger has so completely soured them that even former friends no longer come around.
She’s allowed herself to become the target of a tactic that all predators seem to know intuitively. Cut the weak ones out of the flock and then attack them. If she doesn’t learn how to forgive as she’s been forgiven, she’ll find herself estranged from God and be fair game for her enemy.
If you’re harboring similar feelings of anger toward someone, justified or not, ask God right now to forgive you and to help you forgive the other person. The pain and suffering you’re causing yourself, and the spiritual danger you’re placing your self in simply isn’t worth it.
“In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. (Ephesians 4:26-27)