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Clearing the Ledger

Posted by Don Johnson on

Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 13:5 (NASB) that genuine love “does not keep an account of a wrong suffered.” This is one of those word pictures in Scripture where something familiar is used as a metaphor. Here Paul uses an accounting term describing a merchant who keeps tally of what each customer owes him. He keeps these records because he fully intends to collect payment.

Many of us keep a ledger-book in our hearts. When someone hurts us, we enter their name in our ledger. We think they should not have treated us as they did (and we may be right), so we hold them accountable. “They owe me,” we reason, “and I will make them pay.” Then we set out to exact payment.

But listen to what God has to say about this practice: “Repay no one evil for evil … never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’ … Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:17-21).

When We Are Hurt, We Have Two Choices:

1) We can enter the hurt in our heart’s ledger and plan to get revenge. We are amazingly creative at how we collect our debts. We might withdraw from the relationship, criticize or slander the one who hurt us, erupt in anger, plot ways to hurt them or ruin their reputation, attempt to thwart their success, question their motives, ignore them, spread rumors—our options are endless. We can even put a mask on our revenge with a closed mouth and pious smile. If our heart is angry though, we have already murdered our enemy (Matthew 5:21-22).

The irony of record-keeping and ­revenge-seeking is that we end up hurting ourselves more than the one we hold liable. A vengeful attitude aborts the development of Christlike character, shackles us with chains of bitterness and anger, and can ultimately destroy our lives. Furthermore, it can cause God to “stand down” from disciplining and correcting those who hurt us. When we attempt to seek our own justice, we may obstruct God’s. God does not need vigilantes.

A friend once told me, when I was tempted to seek revenge from a person who had wronged me, “Bill, God only allows two people at a time in the boxing ring. If you want to get into the ring and try to fight your own battles, God will let you. But He will get out. If you want God to fight your battles for you, then you must get out of the ring … and stay out.”

2) We can release the debt, and transfer collection rights to God. Forgiveness is not an act of our emotions, but a choice of our will. Just as a merchant can cancel a debt from his ledger, you can erase every debt you are holding against those who have wronged you … regardless of how you feel.

Essentially, forgiveness is an act of faith. When we choose to abandon the role of judge, jury, and executioner, we are acknowledging that God is sufficient to handle those who have hurt us. We transfer all collection rights to Him. The case is no longer in our hands, but entirely in His.

If we choose this biblical path, we will never be disappointed. God is good enough, just enough, and wise enough to deal with our offender in the proper manner. He always does it right! We seldom do.

—From “Forgiveness: Healing the Harbored Hurts of Your Heart” by Bill Elliff.

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