[Monday] we discovered that forgiving someone begins with your decision to surrender all rights to see justice done for the harm you suffered. It’s not an easy decision. Letting someone off your moral hook takes great wisdom, courage, and faith. You aren’t simply letting the matter drop; you are handing this person and your suffering over to God, trusting Him to do what is right. While this is extremely difficult to do, I have unsettling news for you. It’s easy compared to the next step of genuine forgiveness.
Step 1: Leave justice to God. Now for step 2 . . .
Leave Mercy to God
Let me explain what I mean by way of a true story.
A man suffered the tragic loss of his wife to the advances of another man. Both men worked for the same Christian ministry, but through a bizarre twist of administrative blunders, the ministry was unable to fire the adulterous man—and he refused to quit. (The organization has since closed that gap in its policies!) The upright man could not afford to resign, and he struggled to find work elsewhere. Meanwhile, the two had to work in close proximity with one another for several weeks.
To his credit, the upright man turned the matter of justice over to God and clung to the words of Deuteronomy 32:35-36, a passage that begins, “Vengeance is Mine, and retribution.” In fact, this man delighted in the notion that God would exact justice, and he longed for the day his enemy experienced divine vengeance and holy retribution. But as the days dragged on and the weeks rolled along, nothing happened. No fire. No brimstone. No heavenly pay-back fell upon the adulterous man.
Eventually, the upright man had to face an uncomfortable truth: God might, in fact, choose to show mercy to his adulterous enemy. What then? It’s one thing to entrust God with vengeance in hopes of seeing justice done in due course, but it’s quite another to affirm God’s decision to withhold retribution in a grand display of heavenly mercy!
But when the upright man was able to say, “Yes, Lord, vengeance is Yours . . . and so is mercy,” he found peace. He had truly forgiven his adulterous enemy when he came to the point of trusting God to give either justice or mercy at His own discretion.
When you have accomplished both steps—“Leave justice to God” and “Leave mercy to God”—you are ready to not only give but also receive grace. That’s our subject for [Friday].
From Living the Proverbs by Charles R. Swindoll, copyright © 2012. Reprinted by permission of Worthy Inspired., an imprint of Hachette Book Group, Inc.