attend church for decades and never grow. They keep coming, but
their hearts are hard. In many cases the cause is that they have
refused to forgive somebody.
Forgiving others is sometimes difficult because we want justice
to be done. We want to even the score. In a word, we want revenge.
Revenge can be very subtle. It need not manifest itself in some
horrible act of violence or even in "giving someone the silent
treatment." It might show up simply in a refusal to establish eye
contact or as passivity in the relationship (the loss of energy to
treat the other person well).
Although we may feel justified in our attempts to pay people
back for wrongs they have done, the fact is that vengeance is not
our job. Romans 12:19 says, "Beloved, never avenge yourselves but
leave it to the wrath of God; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is
Mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’"
If anyone had good cause (and good opportunity) to get revenge,
it was the biblical character of Joseph. When Joseph was just a
boy, his brothers were so jealous of him, they decided to kill
him. As they were about to carry out their plans, an interesting
opportunity presented itself. Some slave traders were passing by,
and Joseph’s brothers saw their opportunity to get rid of Joseph
forever and make a little money in the process. They sold him into
Many years later, after Joseph had become the second most
powerful man in all of Egypt, Joseph’s brothers were afraid of his
vengeance (Genesis 50:15,18-21). They said, "‘It may be that
Joseph will pay us back for all the evil which we did to
him.’...His brothers also came and fell down before him, and said,
‘Behold, we are your servants.’ But Joseph said to them, ‘Fear
not, for am I in the place of God?’"
Joseph saw the issue clearly. He trusted in the God "who judges
justly." He knew vengeance is something God reserves exclusively
for Himself. Joseph did not dare exalt himself into God's place.
We are guilty of exalting ourselves not only when we seek
revenge, but also when we judge others, when we judge God Himself,
when we take God’s word lightly, and when we run our own lives.
God is God, and we’re not. Let’s be careful not to jump up into