Retribution or Reconciliation
Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation…
~ 2 Corinthians 5:18
You knew him well in life. He was hateful and cruel. He had starved, beaten, degraded, belittled, and driven great fear in the hearts of many women, including yourself, for a very long time. The torture seemed to be never-ending. Rightly so, a seed of bitterness grew in your heart. You were unaware of this seed until many years later when you saw this man again, face to face. He was speaking to you about being changed in Christ, forgiven. Now he is asking for your forgiveness. All you can see before your eyes are the years of torment he inflicted, including being responsible for the death of many women, including your sister. He reaches to shake your hand, but you cannot raise yours to meet his. How can you forgive one who showed no mercy? You cannot.
Has there ever been one in your life that hurt you so deeply that you cannot forgive them? Is this person, created by God and loved by God, worthy of redemption, or do we secretly hope for some eternal revenge for our retribution? Have we even uttered the words, “Go to hell!”?
I think we are all guilty of this. We need to be very careful, however, in the area of being proud of our forgiven state. We need to remember that our salvation was a gift, nothing that we earned. When we look through the lens of Jesus, we will see God's circle of love encompassing all humans, including our worst enemies.
Do we not love even our worst acting child? Do we not hope and pray for our own child's reconciliation? If we can understand some degree of love for our children, how much more does God love His children? The Bible says in Psalms 103, “As parents feel for their children, God feels for those who fear him.” God's love far surpasses ours. If we desire reconciliation from our children, I believe it's safe to say that God wants the same for us. Also, if Jesus asked us to forgive even our greatest enemies, He is only asking what He, Himself has done for us. How much less effort does it take to overlook your child's crime, much less an enemy?
Corrie ten Boom could not forgive, but by the strength and power of God Almighty, she did raise her arm to shake the hand of the cruel guard of Ravensbruck concentration camp. It was God's love and forgiveness that flowed through her arm in such a powerful way that it felt like electricity. God forgives even the vilest of people. If we have sinned even once, we are in that category. God, in His love, desires reconciliation, not retribution. If we have a heart of love for God and for others, we should want the same thing also.
Lord help me to forgive as you have forgiven me. Thank you for your gift of reconciliation. Amen
~ Jenny Calvert