Last Sunday, John Wyble, pastor of Living Word Deaf Church, preached a powerfully convicting message on forgiving others (entirely in ASL, of course). To say I've struggled with unforgiveness, towards those who have caused hurt to me and my family, especially, would be an understatement. It may be the hardest, toughest, most "unreasonable" thing the Lord has ever asked me to do. I'm a guy who needs it explained. I need reasons. I need the "why," and, even more, I need the "okay . . . HOW, exactly???" A verse that has helped me tremendously is Romans 12:19: "Dearly Beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath . . ." No, this particular verse will not come up as you go through your Strong's Concordance in a typical word study on ”forgiveness." But isn't that really what unforgiveness amounts to? We wanted (needed, really!) to be loved, and we were treated to a concentrated dosage of wicked hatred, instead (at least, it sure feels that way!). And now we want inflicted on them the same, or even greater pain, pretty please, than we experienced at their hands. We want fiery, flaming vengeance. We are filled with the "righteous, holy wrath of God" for their despicable deeds against us, and all that lies within us cries out, demanding to be avenged. That's why it's got to be the sheer genius of God, speaking through the Apostle Paul, that starts this verse out, "DEARLY BELOVED." God's got me. That very thing I so desperately needed, but got the icy cold, evil twin opposite of — LOVE — the Lord, MY SWEET SHEPHERD (Psalm 23:1) has lavished ABUNDANTLY on me. And His Love does what only Calvary’s Love can do: Melts that iceberg. He has enriched me; He has made me fat with His Love. And He strategically seizes this opp to remind me, right BEFORE He issues that incredibly unreasonable, clearly impossible command: "hey, Ern, guess what? That irresistible, overwhelming, insurmountable and monstrously insatiable urge welling up inside you and threatening to consume your very being: the inner cry for righteous vengeance -- I want you to just lay that aside now. Yep. In fact, I want you to replace that with love, charity, benevolence." Well, guess what? If I'm truly, truly LOVED, and I KNOW that; really know and BELIEVE that (I John 4:16) then I have in abundance all I really needed in the first place . . . AND I CAN WELL AFFORD IT.
My wonderful, adorable granddaughter, Lila. She cries A LOT. More, so far, than any baby I've known (and I've known a few). Don't know why (we have our theories). The pediatrician keeps telling us she's just fine. But I think Lila would beg to differ. So we comfort her in shifts, because she will wear any one of us out on our own. When it's Zayde's turn, I gladly take the sweet child up into my arms and let all the love I have for her inside me just pour out like a holy balm to soothe this most precious, adorable little creature. I wrap her tenderly but tightly in my grandfatherly arms, and start walking. I am her regal carriage ride around her royal domain. I rock her, sing to her softly (Elvis' "I Can't Help Falling in Love with You" is a favorite), letting the low baritone notes reverberate through my chest to soothingly vibrate her tiny frame. I look into her eyes as she turns her little face up to look at mine, and I would swear it's nothing less than the sure knowledge of Zayde's overflowing love for her that eventually seems to win her heart and lull her into a quiet calm. And then, amazingly for a 4 1/2 month old; this tiny daughter of my daughter starts singing with me.
I believe in Romans 12:19 our God is trying to produce the same effect in us, who are filled with such righteous indignation and avenging wrath. You are SO, SO loved. Let it go. You really can WELL afford it. Be soothed by the generous, abounding, tender, Fatherly LOVE He has just LAVISHED on you. Be SO soothed by the comforting, resonating warmth of the Shepherd's embrace that you can't help but sing along.
Not finished. More later, Lord willing.