There should be a warning on the front of the Bible that states, “Contents May Be Hazardous to Your Toes: Steel-Toed Boots Recommended.” At least that is how I felt this past week.
I don’t know where the phrase…”stepped on my toes” originated, but it is a clear picture of what it feels like when God’s Word reaches into your mind and shows you the contents of your heart. Ouch. It hurts, but it is the kind of hurt that can lead to healing as long as you tend to the area of pain.
What was my area of pain? Unforgiveness.
In preparation to teach the Sunday School lesson I read and re-read Luke 6. It was a section of scripture that you know well if you have grown up in the church. “Love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you. Bless those that curse you. Pray for those who mistreat you.” Then it says, ” 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.” OK. Simple words. Deep.
I had never seen it before, but to turn the other cheek means that you have decided not to RETALIATE. The “law of retaliation” was big in those days and, if we want to admit it, our hearts follow that law today. It is the “I-will-get-even” attitude we express when someone hurts us. Jesus plainly explains that we need to drop that “get-even attitude” and get on with life. I thought,” I have done that. I did not get even when a certain person hurt me.” In a way my thoughts were true. I had avoided retaliation. When it was happening and everyone was screaming that I should let this person “have it” I took a close look at retaliation. It leaves us bitter and unfulfilled, so why go there? Besides, I thought, “God will be my revenger.” I took amazing comfort in the thought that God would set things right. So, here go the toes…really the whole foot. That small voice whispered, “So, you ‘take comfort’ in the thought that the other person will fall under My wrath? That they will fall into the ‘hands of an angry God’? Really? Where is My Love in that?” That voice hit me in the heart.
I had left the person involved in my hurt in the hands of an angry God. It was an attitude of “God’s going to get you someday!” If you take a look at the passage from Luke I printed above it does not reflect a God-get-you attitude….no, it is a God “bless them” attitude. Why? Because of the mercy of the Father. Mercy is an act of love that withholds. In the days of grace that we are living in at this present time, mercy withholds what is deserved. That is what He did for me. That is what I am supposed to pray that He will do for those that mistreat me. Jesus did it on the cross…”Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.” Stephen did it while being stoned. Corrie ten Boom in the concentration camp during WWII heard her sister pray for the ones that had beaten her that very day, while she herself struggled with hatred. Mercy asks for mercy for the people who least deserve it. “Be merciful, for your Father in heaven is merciful.” Where is that scripture located?…..Right under the love, do good, bless, and pray for your enemies verses. Ouch. Tough stuff.
Some of us have very tough, wicked, and ungrateful enemies. Notice that God did call them “enemies.” He uses strong words to describe them as people who ‘hate, ‘curse” and ‘mistreat’ others. He knows exactly where they are in their walk or lack of a walk with Him. He knows. He just does not want us living there in the same hate that fills them. He wants us to be free of it and the only way to be free is to forgive.
Forgiveness is a process. Where am I now that I am limping away from those verses on crutches? To be honest, I still like the ‘in the hands of an angry God’ thing since it is easier than lifting up a prayer for the enemy. If I want my toes and heart to heal, I have to decide which thought to feed. If I want to be like my Father, I have a choice to make. It may take a while, but I don’t want to walk on crutches forever while nursing injured toes. Crutches can get you places…but there is nothing in life like the freedom to dance unhindered. God’s dance is mercy. God’s dance is life. I want to dance.