Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The Other Unnecessary Yoke: Revenge

If you have not caught on yet, I really love Zion National Park.  A lot.  It is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been in my life.  It is an appropriately named park.  ‘Zion’ is from the Hebrew the name of a mount on which Jerusalem was built.  It was a sanctuary in that it was highly and easily defendable.  With its towering walls, the city of Jerusalem which was set on Mount Zion was practically unbeatable.  In both the Old and New Testament, Mount Zion became an image of God’s Kingdom and its protection.  The nations of the world were to steam towards it. At the end of the Bible, in the Book of Revelations, the new Jerusalem appears as the fulfillment of heaven.  Entrance to the city is offered but never guaranteed.  In fact, Jesus tells us to enter through the narrow gate.  Why? Because only the unyoked could pass through the narrow gate.  Last post, I wrote about how the yoke of self-centeredness prohibits us from entering heaven.  There is another yoke, born from self-centeredness that is even more deadly.  This yoke is the grudges and lack of forgiveness we carry about needlessly.

This yoke is properly called, I would suppose, the yoke of wrath.  Wrath is anger that seeks revenge.  Anger of itself is merely an emotion that alerts us that we have been hurt.  At that moment we have one of two options.  We can either dismiss the anger through forgiveness or we can allow the anger to fester into a yoke that will crush us.  That yoke then leads us to bitterness, vengeance, and further away from God.  In Dante’s poem, The Divine Comedy: Inferno, the wrathful occupy the 5th  circle of Hell, wallowing in a swamp where the angry forever are at war with one another and those who hold grudges or repressed anger drown for eternity in the venom of their own anger. Does not sound pleasant.  Nonetheless, this effectively happens when we do engage in wrath and why it becomes an iron yoke which keeps us from entering the narrow gate.

    In my continued reading of Fr Larry Richards’ book, “Surrender: The Life Changing Power of Doing God’s Will”, he talks about how the hurt and anger we carry hurts us and everyone else around us.  Mostly it hurts the individual insistent on carrying it.  The only way to relieve ourselves is to forgive.  It is the only way to throw this particularly cruel yoke from our backs.  In fact, when we act on the anger, passively or actively, we only press down harder on our own yoke.  Resentment is like drinking poison and expecting someone else to die.  It has an eternal consequence.  A consequence we actually pray for every time we pray the Our Father.

    Every time we pray the Our Father, we are either making a profession of faith or are actively condemning ourselves.  “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”  Read that line over and over again.  Spend some time praying about it!  Either this line will awash over us with great consolation or it will terrify us to our core!  That line becomes a standard.  Why would God set such a standard?  Doesn’t He understand the great harm and hurt others have done and even continue to do to us?!   What about an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth?

    In Matthew 5: 38-42, Jesus addresses this. “You have heard it said ‘an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.  But I say to you…turn the other cheek.”  Why?  First, He knows His Father is not primarily about the revenge business.  Jesus’ presence among us itself speaks to this.  Were the Father interested in revenge against those who try to hurt Him through rebellion (sin), there would be no Jesus.  There would be nothing but divine wrath constantly tormenting us.  There would be no hope.  The Father sends the Son specifically because He is NOT interested in revenge; one who loves is not one who is enslaved by the hurts inflicted by others!  Love naturally leads to mercy.  One who is without mercy or is quick to judge is one in whom love has not fully found a home.  If God is not interested in revenge then neither can we be.

    The second reason is that God wants us to be joyful.  There can be no lasting joy where there is anger and a desire for revenge.  Jesus wants to remove such awful weights from our shoulders and enable to free us to walk uprightly and in true freedom and joy.  We benefit from our own exercise of mercy!  We know from physiology that anger has drastic negative affects on the individual: ulcers, high blood pressure, heart disease, and a whole host of physical and psychological disorders which diminish the quality of our lives.  Why would any sane person want to carry around such things?!   Mercy to the benefit of all!  A loving God wants us free from such constraints, such burdensome yokes!  There is no sane reason to keep this yoke.

    It comes down to our own oftentimes heroic decision: to no longer hold against others the damage and harm they have done.  Humility makes us realize it is not a standard we want other to hold to us and certainly not a standard we want God to hold with us.  There is no necessity to carry the yoke nor drink the poison.  None at all!  Step into the sanctuary of Zion and allow God’s mercy to wash upon you and free you.  Let go of the weight and burden of grudges and anger!  God wants better for you.  He will not pry the yoke from you.  He will, however, lift it off your shoulders should you allow Him to.

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