The Legal Swamp, Part Two

Yesterday we began talking about the legal swamp—the tendency of people, and even professing Christians, to march headlong into the mire of courtroom battles, often without any attempt at personal reconciliation. And the longer we’re in the swamp, the more our attitude starts to stink. This is especially true when we choose to press the issue from a strictly legal standpoint.

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The Legal Swamp, Part One

Law never fails to turn me off. Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that I don’t think we need it . . . it’s just that it leaves me cold. It frowns and demands. It requires and warns and threatens. With a grim glare, it dares us to forget its rules or even think about disobeying its regulations. I know, I know. It protects us. It gives us recourse when we’ve been assaulted or abused.

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God Responds

Did God respond to the plea of Psalm 137? Absolutely! After seventy years in exile, every Jew who wanted to return to rebuild the city of Jerusalem and restore the temple was allowed to do so. And the Jews learned their lesson. While they were certainly not a sinless people after their chastisement, they never again struggled with the issue of idolatry. And to this day, they prize the Old Testament Scriptures above all.

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Our Great Challenge

Returning good for evil is not a complicated concept; it’s very simple. Yet it is rare. It’s one of the most difficult tasks we ever undertake in life. Let’s be honest. Forgiving an offense is much easier when the guilty person is contrite and has sincerely apologized. But when the offender takes delight in our suffering or personally benefits from our downfall, choosing to treat him or her kindly defies everything we know about justice and fair play.

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Free-Flowing Grace

In a piece titled “Forgiveness Is a Condition for Our Own Freedom,” Neil Anderson wrote the following: Forgiveness is not forgetting. People who try to forget find that they cannot. God says He will “remember no more” our sins (Hebrews 10:17), but God, being omniscient, cannot forget. “Remember no more” means that God will never use the past against us (Psalm 103:12).

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Embrace Mercy

Yesterday we discovered that forgiving someone begins with your decision to surrender all rights to see justice done for the harm you suffered. It’s not an easy decision. Letting someone off your moral hook takes great wisdom, courage, and faith. You aren’t simply letting the matter drop; you are handing this person and your suffering over to God, trusting Him to do what is right.

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Surrender Your Rights

If we accept that resentment is poisonous to the soul and that God demands we dispose of it, the next question is obvious: How? How can we rid ourselves of this toxic attitude? Here’s where God’s Word comes to our rescue. First, we must do something within ourselves that is painful. We must surrender our right to pursue our own justice. This is the first of two steps in forgiving someone.

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Poison to the Soul

I think Sir Francis Bacon had the right idea when he wrote, “Revenge is a kind of wild justice; which the more man’s nature runs to, the more ought law to weed it out. . . . Certainly, in taking revenge a man is but even with his enemy; but in passing over it, he is superior, for it is a prince’s part to pardon.” If you have spent much time around someone who is eaten up with the desire for revenge . . .

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God’s Deliverance

The final verse of Psalm 54 describes a sudden reversal. The first verses describe a dire situation, prompting David to plead for God’s help. By verse 7, his despondency has turned to triumph. His declaration, “He has delivered me from all trouble,” is past tense. Hebrew literature often uses the perfect tense to declare a future event “as good as done.”

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Rest in God’s Faithfulness

As David’s lament (Psalm 54) over the grind of difficult people draws to a close, he turns from bitter resentment to find rest in God’s faithfulness. David has named his enemies and acknowledged their sins, and he has surrendered his right to justice, placing them in God’s hands. As a result, David finds peace.

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