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Forgiveness Is Personal

• Rob Bell

Rob spoke about forgiveness and one common challenge to it—revenge. When someone hurts us and we turn to revenge, we are essentially saying that we don’t like the way God is running the universe.

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Rob Bell spoke about forgiveness and one common challenge to it—revenge. We can express our revenge both actively and passively. Active forms of it include acting against someone who hurt us by speaking badly of them to others, working to hurt them back in some way and gathering information about this person who hurt us. Passive forms of revenge can be as simple as giving someone the “cold shoulder” or secretly celebrating negative things that happen to someone who hurt us.

When someone hurts us and we turn to revenge, we are essentially saying that we don’t like the way God is running the universe. We are not satisfied with God’s expression of justice in the here and now. So we take justice upon ourselves. Consider 1 Peter 2:23: when we take revenge, we are not trusting that God is the God of justice. In fact, when we read Romans 12:14-21 we see that we are to bless those who hurt us. We are to pray for them, not seek revenge against them. Rob Bell reminded us that this means we should pray for those who we consider our enemies. It’s very difficult to do this! But this is the call of the gospel.

Consider Luke 23:34. Even under these, the most extreme of circumstances, Jesus extends forgiveness and prays for those who attack and hate him. Rather than return pain for pain, Jesus shows us that it is possible to stop the cycle of pain. Refusing to return evil for evil, Jesus takes the pain into himself. As Rob Bell said, he absorbs the pain refusing to make those who hurt him pay for it. When we are hurt, it is possible to take the cost upon ourselves rather than seek revenge, but this is a difficult thing to do. It feels like a form of death, and in fact, it is. But on the other side of this death is resurrection, freedom, newness of life rather than cynicism and bitterness that lies on the other side of revenge. As Rob Bell put it, it is possible to say, with Jesus, “The pain stops here”.

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Topics: Forgiveness, Justice


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Focus Scripture:

  • 1 Peter 2:23

    When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.

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