All week long I’m thinking about the Bible points for our Vacation Bible School and what they mean for adults. This week will be a mix of some old and some new as I share these lessons.
Tonight at Sky VBS! (Group Publishing), we’re learning: No Matter What People Do…Trust God!
In high school, Carl didn’t score touchdowns like the sports star Norman. Instead, Carl served as the sports manager for the team—close to the action, but never quite getting the glory.
One day in the locker room, Norman played a teenage prank on Carl and then they went their separate ways. Norman played football and studied education in college, earning his master’s degree and returning to the high school to teach and coach for over 30 years.
Carl took a different path. More than 50 years after that initial locker room prank, Carl showed up at Norman’s house and shot him with a pistol. At 73 years old, Carl is now starting a life term in prison.
Not exactly the best way to spend your retirement years.
I read this new story last week and it troubled me in a deep-down unshakeable way. It’s partly because the story dismisses that teenage prank. Of course, it couldn’t possibly be worth killing someone over 50 years after the fact. Of course it makes no sense to murder a 70-year old man for something he did in high school.
Yet, bullying, teasing, and publicly embarrassing others seem to be the signature traits of our society and they aren’t easily shrugged off, even by the strongest and most confident among us. It’s a reminder to us all how how lives can be destroyed by what we say and do.
The story, though, also illustrates something else. It shows how what people do to us usually determines our character far more than it impacts theirs.
Carl—the 73-year-old killer over a high school grudge—lived an embittered life, entangled in jealousy and unforgiveness. Norman lived a full life that sounded successful and happy.
We have a similar choice when people intend evil for us. Like Joseph staring across an Egyptian banqueting table at the brothers who sold him into slavery decades before, we must choose what to do with our offenders.
The Lord’s Prayer instructs us clearly: “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”
If you look at most modern translations of this passage, they read something like: “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (Matthew 6:12 HCSB).
That’s because we perceive wrongs against us as a debt that someone needs to pay. Someone owe us because they took something from us–our innocence, our purity, our dignity, our job, our financial security, our husband, our self-esteem . ..
Pretty soon we’re wrapped up in unforgiveness and anger so tight that our whole life is hindered. We’re tripping all over ourselves when we try to get anywhere.
In his book, Enemies of the Heart, Andy Stanley reminds us that the only way to break free from the snare of anger and unforgiveness is to cancel the debt.
We need to forgive. Why? Because we’ve been forgiven.
In the shadow of my hurt, forgiveness feels like a decision to reward my enemy. But in the shadow of the cross, forgiveness is merely a gift from one undeserving soul to another (129).
Jesus Himself, tortured and crucified by a jeering mob when he had done nothing at all to deserve it, still looked down from the cross and prayed: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).
In “You Want Me To Pray What?” I wrote:
“In the same way, Stephen, the first Christian martyr, prayed, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them” just as the final stones pelted his body and killed him (Acts 7:59).
Have you considered who Stephen was praying for in that moment? One of the men standing by the coat rack cheering on the crowd was Saul—later the apostle Paul.
Stephen asked for God to forgive his persecutors and shortly afterward this same Saul sat on a roadside blinded by Jesus Christ himself, experiencing repentance and conversion.
Satan fully intends to tangle us up in bitterness and jealousy. He wants to defeat our ministry and make us thoroughly unusable because we’re so riled up and distracted by dissension and arguments.
He just doesn’t know what to do when we pray shockingly humble prayers on behalf of others, particularly our enemies. There’s power there.”
No matter what people do to us, we can trust God to use it for His glory and to help us through. More than that, we can ask him to help us forgive so we can move forward in freedom and blessing, no longer hindered by the bitter entanglements of our past.
Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader. Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness. To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.
Copyright © 2012 Heather King