Yesterday I discussed my first pastor, Pastor Byzant and how he was robbed and beaten up in his home. I noted that when interviewed by the newspaper, his main message was, “I forgive them.” I then said that in the flesh this would be hard for me as I would want to go all John Wick on them. While many got the reference, I realized afterward that many didn’t and I should have explained who John Wick is.
John Wick is a movie series starring Keanu Reeves where the first movie starts off with his sad, lonely life by himself, suffering deep down inside because his wife had died of a disease and he missed her immensely. Then one day his doorbell rings and a cute Beagle puppy is delivered to him with a note from his wife telling him that now she’s gone, he has to have something to love other than his (mint, antique) Ford Mustang. But, while getting gas one day some Russian guys at the gas station try to get him to sell his car. He refuses and leaves. That night they sneak into his house, beat him up, kill his puppy and steal his car. At this point we learn that he had left his evil past as a Russian hitman trying to break free from who he had been, but the killing of his puppy triggered something inside of him and the rest of the movie is about him re-entering the underworld and exacting massive revenge on those who killed his puppy and stole his car.
Side note: If you missed yesterday’s message, I wouldn’t really go out on a John Wick killing rampage, but in my flesh I would definitely want to get even.
Applying this to our lives today, Philemon’s slave ran away, probably stealing something, and Paul is sending him back with to Philemon and asking him to forgive his slave; to accept him back as a brother in Christ now. Paul is asking him to do what our human flesh would want to resist.
This does not compute for most of us. We have a hard time in our flesh really forgiving others. That is why revenge flicks (and there’s a ton more out there than just John Wick) are so popular in the theatres as a genre. Revenge feeds our flesh, makes us feel good that we got even, and torments us until we do. And while most of us would never go to this violent, murderous extreme to get even, there are many out there in this world who do and feel justified in doing so.
So, there’s a little story in the Bible of a King named Saul. Saul had disobeyed God and lost the presence of the Holy Spirit guiding his life and rule. Meanwhile, God had anointed (through Samuel) another to replace Saul, and the wickedness and jealously of Saul raged against David, continually chasing him and trying to kill him. Yet, even when David had the chance to finish Saul off, he refused to raise his hand against God’s anointed (I. Samuel 24:6). And even when David could have spoken against Saul, he likewise refused to speak evil of Saul. David was a man after God’s own heart, a man’s man by most standards, yet was careful to not let Saul’s wickedness to dictate his heart.
You and I are called to live differently. We are notto harbor bitterness, resentment, anger, and thoughts of revenge on others, especially if they’ve done something against us. We are not to use deceitful, sneaky means via gossip, slander, the media, or other forms of attack either. Look at what Paul tells us should be the marks of true Christians:
- 9Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. 10Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; 11not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; 12rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, 13contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality. 14Bless those who persecute you; bless and curse not. 15Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. 16Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation. 17Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. 18If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. 19Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.20“But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals upon his head.” 21Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Rom 12:9-21)
- Analyzing this passage (and here I want to be honest with yourself as these different characteristics all stem from the same source within us), do you:
- Love hypocritically? ___________________________________
- Loving only those you like? Loving only those who are nice to you? Loving only those who you agree with? And so forth?
- What do you prefer, what is evil (like revenge) or what is good (like being gracious)? __________________________________
- Do you love Jesus but not His church? (you know, you can’t stand most of the people and don’t really want to be close to them)? ___________________________________________________
- Or are you lovingly devoted to each of your brothers and sisters in Christ? ________________________________
- Verses 10-13 give a list of what this devoted love looks like. Which do you find hard to do? _____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
- Do you struggle to bless those who are rude to you, who mistreat you, who mock you for being a Christian? ___________________________________________________
- And, imagine how much worse real physical persecution would be.
- Do you self-exalt yourself and think of yourself as special? ___________________________________________________
- And similarly, do you find that you have a hard time befriending and loving those of lower social statuses? (you know, the smelly, dirty, less educated, simple, crude, etc.) ______________________________________________
- Payback—is it your theme in life when wronged? __________________________________________________
- How peaceful are you in your society? Or do people know you for protesting every little thing, making a stink about your neighbors, complaining about your government, arguing with people at stores and restaurants over even petty items, demanding your rights? ______________________________________________________________________________________________________
- Do you let God take care of getting revenge, or do you feel your calling is to assist Him? ________________________________
- How do you treat your enemies? _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
- Try reading another 30 chapters in your Bible this week. Maybe have a notebook to record questions you have, things you learned, items that apply to yourself that you need to change, and even areas to thank and bless the Lord.
- In Romans 12:2 Paul instructs us to be transformed, and he says that comes by the renewing of our mind. The Word of God renews our minds as His Spirit works within us to teach us, lead us, change us.
- When we live lives of grace and forgiveness we will show the world the transformation of our minds that God has wrought, and our church will become a new entity unlike anything you’ve seen in Waikoloa before.