by Kathleen Petersen

Throughout the 1970s I lived in Washington, DC, which has more than twice as many lawyers per capita than any other U.S. city. After that decade, I was drawn to enter the legal profession.

My course of study revealed that the legal system was designed originally as a substitute for brutal, physical conflict when a wrong had been perpetrated as a “civilized” alternative to raw vengeance. What a relief! Vengeance has no record of settling anything but creates massive need for further retaliation.
As I continued my career, the term “making one whole” was used frequently:

“Make one whole” is a theory of remedying a breach of contract or other legal obligation. The idea is that someone should be awarded damages to put that person in the same position they would have been if the obligation was not broken.

In theory, lawsuits are a relatively painless method to settle differences or stop a renegade from harming others. In reality, lawsuits are time-consuming, messy, agonizing, and frightfully expensive, leaving all parties unsatisfied in many respects.

Is there a better way?
The following portion of the Lord’s Prayer upon which we’ve been meditating this week, indicates God’s path when someone has wronged us:

 and forgive us our debts, as we ourselves have forgiven our debtors… For if you forgive others their sins, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, your Father will not forgive you your sins. Matthew 6:12,14-15 NET

Perhaps forgiveness of your debtor has proven elusive, or maybe your debtor hasn’t ceased harmful behavior. Here’s further encouragement to continue
your pursuit of the Way of Jesus.

Friends, do not avenge yourselves; instead, leave room for God’s wrath, because it is written, Vengeance belongs to me; I will repay, says the Lord. But

If your enemy is hungry, feed him.
If he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
For in so doing
you will be heaping fiery coals on his head.

Do not be conquered by evil, but conquer evil with good. Romans 12:19-21 CSB

Because we belong to God, we must turn away thoughts and acts of vengeance. Our Father in Heaven is the only one capable of providing wholeness or closure in cases of harmful, selfish or deeply evil actions against us without creating even more chaos. 

But how should we handle our frustration when God’s response seems too slow or destined to be fulfilled only at the Great White Throne of Judgment?
The Romans passage above doesn’t impede followers of Jesus from establishing healthy and necessary boundaries with an offending person. Furthermore,
godly counseling, arbitration or mediation are not excluded. Lawsuits can even be appropriate in certain circumstances. 

The most amazing revelation in Romans 12:21 above is that God has placed his amazing power in us. He enables us to see the place where we can step into his acts of forgiveness and kindness designed to soften hearts gripped by the power of sin and the devil. We can be instruments of his mercy designed to turn them toward Jesus – humanity’s only source of wholeness. 

Has forgiving your enemies or showing them mercy changed them? If so, how has that experience changed you? Has someone forgiven or shown kindness to you and changed your life? Share your experience of God’s mercy with someone who has not yet trusted Jesus.

Note. To access scripture links that don’t appear in the email version, read the web version in your browser.


Red Couch Theology Podcast is pre recorded on Thursday

Sermon on the Mount.

“Balance the Books”

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