With summer completely upon us, the days have grown warmer, the tourists have overrun State Street, and the blockbusters have landed at the local movie theaters. A glance through the summer movie listings bears out a rather alarming trend. Apparently, revenge is the new black (if you’ll pardon the mixed metaphor).
The theme of revenge runs throughout the entire “Harry Potter” series, the sixth installment of which released on July 15th. The high-tech robot fest “Transformers 2” even has revenge in the subtitle, “Revenge of the Fallen.” Getting even never looked so good.
Funny thing about revenge, though: it doesn’t really jive with the Jesus way. And our junior high students had the chance to hear precisely this at Forest Home this summer. Although each teaching session provided plenty of great material for our students to think about, the night that the speaker, Nate, talked about forgiveness and revenge seemed to really strike a chord. Witness some of their remarks at the end of the week when asked, “What difference will this week make for you?”
“I want to be more forgiving and not take revenge” – 7th grade boy
“I need to forgive more and stop fighting with my sister” – 8th grade boy
“Taking revenge does not help me in the long run” – 8th grade girl
“We need to forgive other people because God forgave us when we didn’t deserve it” – 8th grade boy
Therein lies the crux of the matter. As Christians, we do not take our lessons from adolescent wizards or shape-shifting robots, as much as we may want to. No, we sit at the feet of Jesus who calls us to forgive “not seven times, but seventy-seven times” (Matthew 18:22). And not only does he call us to this, he also sets the example for us: You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:6-8).
Paul’s words remind us of our ungodly sinfulness when Christ redeemed us. In the face of our hatred and spite, Christ forgave our sins and reconciled us to the Father. We learn from Christ that the godly response to wrong is forgiveness.
He who laid down his own life for those in rebellion against his kingdom seems to have little tolerance for revenge. God calls us out of our own petty battles for respect and lifts our heads to see the one who, when they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats (1 Peter 2:23) so that we may learn again not only the power of forgiveness, but the vastness of our own debt.
Don’t misread me: I love movies and, just like many of our students, really look forward to viewing the two movies mentioned above. But I’m also thankful for the recent reminder of the way of the cross with which I can contrast the messages of the world.
As we walk the path of the Christian life, may we all make vows like our junior high students, and truly live out the words of Christ in Luke 6:27-29, But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. That may not make for a great plot line in a summer blockbuster, but it certainly makes for a better way of life.