I haven't been to church since I don't remember when.
Things were going great til they fell apart again.
So I listened to the preacher as he told me what to do.
He said you can't go hatin' others who have done wrong to you.
Sometimes we get angry but we must not condemn.
Let the good Lord do his job, you just pray for them.
I pray your brakes go out runnin' down a hill.
I pray a flower pot falls from a window sill,
And knocks you in the head like I'd like to.
I pray your birthday comes and nobody calls.
I pray you're flyin' high when your engine stalls.
I pray all your dreams never come true.
Just know wherever you are, honey, I pray for you.
(Lyrics from the song Pray for You by Jaron and The Long Road to Love)
Wow…a bit on the dark side - don't you think? But I know for a fact that there are a lot of people who can relate to Jaron and The Long Road to Love's sentiments. Relationships can be exciting, fulfilling, and confidence boosting, but they can also end up being complete disasters that leave us in emotional devastation.
So what do we do with the ashes of our dreams that were burned alive in the fires of betrayal and abandonment? Basically you have two choices: bitter or better.
You just read a great example of the bitter option. You can construct a little mental voodoo doll of your enemy and imagine the pins of pain being infused into his/her life - like flower pots dropping or brakes failing at inopportune times - and to be sure there is some level of satisfaction that you could draw from that tactic.
But I would highly recommend a radically different approach… a better approach. You may have guessed that while being funny, Pray for You doesn't quite capture what followers of Jesus Christ are called to do. In fact, not letting go of our hurt and pain is the quickest path to a joyless and bitter life. That's why when Jesus taught the disciples to pray "Forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us," He added this:
If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins (Matthew 6:12; 14-15).
Not a confusing message, is it? In other words, when we tightly grip an attitude of unforgiveness, God withholds His offer of grace and pardon.
I know what you're thinking. "You have no idea what's been done to me!"
And you would be correct. But what I do know is that Jesus Christ is the most innocent human being who ever walked this earth, and He also suffered more than any person has or ever will. Listen to some of His dying words as He writhed in agony from the cross: "Father, forgive them, for they don't know what they are doing" (Matthew 23:34).
Wait a minute…did they know what they were doing? Of course they did! 'They' were the ones who drove the spikes into our Lord's hands and shouted insults at Him as He spoke those words!
The way I see it, if Jesus offered undeserved forgiveness to His tormentors, how can we not forgive anyone and everyone who offends us?
We can't. Jesus doesn't give us that option - and there is a very good reason for His command to forgive:
Make allowance for each other's faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others (Colossians 3:13).
The key to finding the strength to forgive comes from remembering that God forgave us when we trusted in Jesus for our salvation. Our crime against God is nothing less than the murder of His Son, so I can see why it would be incredibly offensive to Him if we refuse to extend to others what He extended to us.
So let's get practical. Think about someone who has wronged you that needs Jesus Christ in their lives. Have someone in mind? Yes, we should pray for them - but not in the way Jaron modeled for us. Instead I'd like to propose a lyrical change to his little ditty:
I pray that God will calm your restless heart.
I pray the gospel gives you a brand new start,
And fills your life with grace like He gave mine.
I pray your bitterness turns into newfound peace.
I pray your anger finds a way to cease.
I pray all God's dreams for you finally come true.
Just know wherever you are… I pray for you.
Flashpoint: Ignite Into Action
Being wronged and sinned against is a normal part of life. But instead of letting Satan tempt us with bitterness, we should choose to forgive and let God use that as an opportunity for you to share the gospel with people who expect you to be angry.
Accelerant: Feed the Fire
Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?" Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times (Matthew 18:21-22).
If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head, and the LORD will reward you (Proverbs 25:21-22).
See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many (Hebrews 12:15).