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Don't Let It Go -- Give It Up (published in The Tribune 11/24/12)

posted Sep 7, 2013, 1:18 PM by Fccea Webmaster
Composer Giacomo Puccini sent Christmas cakes to his friends. One year, after they were sent, he and conductor Arturo Toscanini had one of their frequent quarrels. The cake was gone, but Puccini sent a telegram saying: "Cake sent by mistake." Toscanini replied: "Cake eaten by mistake."

That humorous incident illustrates a tragic truth. Any counselor will tell you that most people hold grudges that threaten their emotional and physical well-being.

Such attitudes are fostered in a modern society that prizes individual rights. We hang on "for the principle of the thing." Like Gollum with the ring, we embrace the joy of the pain and the desire for revenge until it becomes a part of our being.

But there is a price to pay. National Geographic, in November, 1985, reported that a park ranger in British Columbia found an interlocked set of moose antlers. He speculated that two bull moose began fighting, got their antlers intertwined, could not get free and died together. Just like us when we will not forgive.

Modern psychology recognizes the problem, but the best it can do is advise, "Let it go!" Occasionally, that's enough. But for most, the desire for vengeance continues to overwhelm.

The Bible goes much deeper than this on two fronts. First, and most importantly, it reminds us, "Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you" (Eph 4:32). This is meaningless unless and until one really grasps the truth that God, in Christ, has given His own life to pay for our sins, making it unthinkable that we would continue to hold out against someone else. This theme is repeated multiple times through the New Testament, including in the Lord's Prayer: "and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors" (Matt 6:12).

But it also confronts the issue from another perspective. There is a great play on words that starts in Eph. 4:26-27, "Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil." Give no opportunity to the devil. Now look at Romans 12:19, "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.'" The phrases translated "give no opportunity" and "leave it" are the same Greek word. So the Bible is advising, don't give the devil opportunity -- rather, give God opportunity.

In other words, you want vengeance? Give it to the ultimate revenge manager! He repays as appropriate. That's a little different than just saying, "Let it go."

The truth is, even the injustices that come our way are intended in some way for our ultimate good. It may be intended to encourage our submission to God in the first place. Or it may be intended for our continued growth. But injustice is never wasted -- unless we refuse to let it go.

Joseph is a wonderful example. Sold into slavery by his brothers at age 17 with all the trauma that would have caused. Yet years later, after he rescued those same brothers from famine (read the whole wonderful story in Genesis 37-50), they got nervous when Dad died -- scared to death Joseph would now take his revenge. What was to stop him?

But Joseph responds to their fears, "'Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.' Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them" (Genesis 50:19-21). He gave it to God, and he saw God's good purpose. There's a man who knew how to live, not just exist.

Got a long standing grudge, resentment, desire for revenge? Don't let it go. Give it up -- to God who will know exactly what to do with it. And start living again.

Dave McNeff is pastor of the First Congregational Church of Eaton/Ault