It is one thing to be awakened to injustice and quite another to be willing to be inconvenienced and interrupted to do something about it.
We can no longer harbor it [unforgiveness and hurt] for later use against the other person. We must surrender the wound or injustice that may have become a cherished, if bitter, possession. Letting go of this vengeful possession, we lose a painful advantage we have been savoring, but we regain the personal energy that has been dissipated as we nourished this hurt.
Powerful and wily people use apologies to escape judgment for great evils, they betray a trust and, found out, they say they are sorry for mistakes in judgment. They commit a crime, and they call their crimes errors which they regret. They sneak around their offense on the oiled wheels of apology when their crime calls for nothing less than oceanic tears of remorse.
When you give up vengeance, make sure you are not giving up on justice. The line between the two is faint, unsteady, and fine…Vengeance is our own pleasure of seeing someone who hurt us getting it back and then some. Justice, on the other hand, is secure when someone pays a fair penalty for wronging another even if the injured person takes no pleasure in the transaction. Vengeance is personal satisfaction. Justice is moral accounting…Human forgiveness does not do away with human justice.
Have we as a people been so dumbed down we can’t see it? Well, this is what happens, I’m afraid, in a postmodern culture where all values are equivalent and all truth is relative. One moment the President browbeats Congress to pass a trade bill with China. Forget Christians being persecuted. The same day the same President moments later angrily demands sanctions against Japan for hunting whales. There are no principles, just momentary preferences, and everything depends on what’s to be gained by those in positions of power….What’s good enough for whales ought to be good enough for persecuted Christians.
It is hard enough, even with the best will in the world, to be just. It is hard, under the pressure of haste, uneasiness, ill-temper, self-complacency, and conceit, to continue intending justice. Power corrupts; the “insolence of office” will creep in. We see it so clearly in our superiors; is it unlikely that our inferiors see it in us? How many of those who have been over us did not sometimes (perhaps often) need our forgiveness? Be sure that we likewise need the forgiveness of those that are under us.
What, then, is the biblical basis for social concern? Why should Christians get involved? In the end there are only two possible attitudes which Christians can adopt towards the world: Escape and Engagement…’Escape’ means turning our backs on the world in rejection, washing our hands of it … and steeling our hearts against its agonized cries for help. In contrast, ‘engagement’ means turning our faces towards the world in compassion, getting our hands dirty, sore and worn in its service, and feeling deep within us the stirring of the love of which cannot be contained.
Jesus has also been accused of being ineffective, in a political sense, and of having done little to right social injustices. But it is clear from the Sermon on the Mount that he was deeply concerned that his disciples should be both the “salt” and the “light” of secular society; he endorsed the authority of those Old Testament prophets who vehemently rebuked social injustice; and he consistently identified himself with the poor and weak, with social outcasts and those who were regarded as morally disreputable…It is true that he did not lead a rebellion against Rome, seek to free slaves, or introduce a social revolution. He had come for a particular purpose, which was far more important than any of these things – and from that purpose nothing could or did deflect him.
Forgiveness is the only way to break the cycle of blame–and pain–in a relationship…It does not settle all questions of blame and justice and fairness…But it does allow relationships to start over. In that way,said Solzhenitsyn, we differ from all animals. It is not our capacity to think that makes us different, but our capacity to repent, and to forgive.
If we do anything to further the kingdom of God, we may expect to find what Christ found on that road – abuse, indifference, injustice, misunderstanding, trouble of some kind. Take it. Why not? To that you were called. In Latin America someone who feels sorry for himself is said to look like a donkey in a downpour. If we think of the glorious fact that we are on the same path with Jesus, we might see a rainbow.