Saturday, February 7, 2009

Vengeance

Many years ago I had occasions to be vengeful. Malicious treatment by people who were supposed to love me caused one of the greatest inward struggles of my life. At times I wanted nothing more than retaliation. I was a weak Christian then but knew that vengeance was not the appropriate option.

Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, "VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY," says the Lord. Romans 12:19

Try as I might (and I tried), there was not a loophole to be found. That was until I stumbled across this scrumptious verse while reading my bible one day:

If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink; for so you will heap coals of fire on his head, and the LORD will reward you. Proverbs 25:21-22.

That was it! I would just keep being nice no matter what and it would drive my enemies crazy from not being able to "get me". I would be extra nice. I really wanted God to heap on the coals. Getting a reward for my Christian approach seemed a worthy comfort too. I was pleased to think of its deposit into my heavenly bank account. I rejoiced! The Lord had shown me the way. He would take vengeance. This was going to be sweet.

Soon, however, a problem surfaced. It wasn't working. I didn't see steam rising from the tops of their heads. There didn't seem to be a lesson learned. They didn't see the error of their ways. As a matter of fact, my newfound freedom seemed to trigger an even greater challenge within my enemies to hurt me.

I was discouraged. Not only that, I had discovered another verse that made me see that what I was doing was still a form of vengeance. By my actions, I was trying to force the hand of God to act against my enemies. Though I didn't see my enemies fall, I was glad with anticipation. In my rejoicing at this prospect I had literally transferred those consequences upon myself in the form of God's displeasure.

Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles; lest the LORD see it and it displease Him, and He turn away His wrath from him. Proverbs 24:1-18

Unfortunately, this story doesn't have a redeeming end to it. Those people are no longer in my life and nothing was ever solved between us. I recently received a wonderful revelation in regards to one of the verses though. The one about heaping hot coals on a person's head.

Evidently, according to scholars, this is a reference to an oriental custom. A fire in the center of a village was kept going day and night. If a household's fire went out then one would take a container, have it filled with hot coals, return home to rekindle the hearth fire and bring warmth again to the household. On cold days this was an enviable job, since the heat from the coals of fire kept the head and hands warmed. To heap coals of fire on someone's head, then, means to warm him, and by extension, bless him and his entire family.

Quite different from my idea of the coals representing guilt, shame or at the very least a monstrous migraine headache! I never took revenge but I wanted it by proxy. I was trying to sic God on them! My response to mistreatment should have been to bless. That's different than just being nice or not retaliating. It involves love. It involves eternity.

But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you. Matthew 5:44



LORD, help us to see with spiritual eyes and to know that the battles that rage around us are far more important than how they affect us. May the powers and principalities that war for souls lose their strength as we continue by your grace and mercy to love, to pray and to bless. May others come alongside where we have failed.



Note: My experience did not involve any type of physical abuse. Please don't misunderstand me to suggest that anyone should endure such treatment.



12 comments:

  1. a good lesson, i especially like the information about the coals, i did not know that.

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  2. Hi Nancy! My pastor mentioned this custom of the coals in a sermon he gave. It was such an ah-ha moment for me. I think of it whenever I am tempted to be offended. I'm such a work in progress!
    Hopefully, I'll get to do something a little more uplifting next week.
    Blessings to you and thanks for coming over!

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  3. Hey, sweet friend! I'm sorry you had to suffer through this without it being resolved. But I know your sweet heart has forgiven them and left it all behind. Here's another part to this heaping on of coals: when a neighbor's fire went out, a person took a portion of his own coals and gave it to his neighbor that he and his family would not only be warmed but be able to cook and be fed. Blessings...Lynn

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  4. This recently happened to me. Someone from work tried to throw me under the coals and not take responsibility for her actions. At first, I was really mad!!! And, I wished she really got it from the owners. However, I quickly realized, to forgive and move on because I have to continue working with her. I am naturally nice to her and continue having a positive attitude with her. But I do know trusting her will take a while to restore. But I believe God is helping me every day.

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  5. Lynn ~ Yes, you are right, it's long left behind! Thanks for adding more about his interesting custom! I really like that.
    Blessings to you :-)


    Hope42day, Nice to have you over and appreciate you taking the time to comment. It is much better to forgive and forget!
    Katherine Kuhlman was often treated viciously by those who opposed her. Nevertheless, it's reported that she always treated her critics with love and respect. When asked how she could do it, she said... "Oh, I just pretend it never happened". Simple but effective.

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  6. Thankful that steam didn't come from their heads!

    I've found too, that if you pray for someone you are struggling with, you cannot stay angry, irritated, etc. (whatever the case may be) with them. It doesn't take hurt away but it ministers to my heart and to theirs.

    Thank you for your honesty.

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  7. I saw that picture and saw beauty, before I knew they were coals. So it is... fire that can be used to destroy or warm. As with us.

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  8. Janelle, So very true. There is so much more I could have and maybe should have said in this post... about sweet forgiveness, prayer, and tons of mercy. Thanks for coming over!!


    L.L., Beautiful analogy. Thank you..

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  9. hi lorrie!
    big heart smiles to you today!

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  10. Nancy ~ same to you but more of it!!! :-D

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  11. Great post Lorrie. It is true that sometimes we have our own way of interpreting the scriptures, you know... for our own advantage. I am very blessed because I forget and forgive easily, makes life so much easier!

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  12. Marja, That's the best way to be.. for sure!

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