70 x 7 (a true confession)
Over the past few months, at my previous job, there was a person that particularly offended me. She treated the staff that worked for me terribly; I didn’t respect the way she treated her own family members, and almost every problem that I had at the Harford County location was due to this one person. As I was preparing to leave my employment there, things become particularly awful. I had this tremendous temptation to tell her EXACTLY what I thought of her on my last day there. As I drove back and forth over the miles on I-95 and the beltway, I would imagine how great it would feel to tell her once and for all how mean, deceitful, and all around foul I found her to be.
Of course I also spent miles reminding myself that I could NOT actually tell her those things. And here’s the reason why: “the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.” I memorized that verse from James when I was a young teenager on a Bible Quiz team, never realizing how often God would use it to remind me to keep my anger in check.
When Peter asked Jesus how many times we needed to forgive, Jesus upped the ante by 70 times more than Peter was prepared to give. In my life (and in my experience at the Y), I’ve dealt with people who push that envelope of forgiveness well past 490 offenses. In the end though, the word of God holds firm: as “righteous” as I might feel to tell someone off, especially with practiced phrasing and finger-snapping attitude, it won’t ever change that person’s heart. It may (possibly) change their behavior for a while, but only the Holy Spirit can change someone’s motivation. Only the righteousness of God will truly change their heart. As much as I like to think that my holy beat-down will somehow give God the “help” He needs, the truth is that my anger only gets in the way of God’s plan.