1915) Overcoming Bitterness Like Jesus

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By John Piper

     No one was more grievously sinned against than Jesus.  Every bit of the animosity directed against him was fully undeserved.

     No one has ever lived who was more worthy of honor than Jesus; and no one has been dishonored more.

     If anyone had a right to get angry and be bitter and vengeful, it was Jesus.  How did he control himself when scoundrels, whose very lives he sustained, spit in his face?  I Peter 2:23 gives the answer:

When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats.  Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.

     What this verse means is that Jesus had faith in the future grace of God’s righteous judgment.  He did not need to avenge himself for all the indignities he suffered, because he entrusted his cause to God.  He left vengeance in God’s hands and prayed for his enemies’ repentance (Luke 23:32-34a):

Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed.  When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals— one on his right, the other on his left.  Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

     Peter gives this glimpse into Jesus’ faith so that we would learn how to live this way ourselves.  He said (I Peter 2:21):

You have been called [to endure harsh treatment patiently] . . . because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.

      If Christ conquered bitterness and vengeance by faith in future grace, how much more should we, since we have far less right to murmur for being mistreated than he did.

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Heavenly Father, as we are forgiven by you, may we forgive all who wrong and offend us.  Help us remember that no one can harm us without doing himself a far greater injury in your sight, so that we may be moved to compassion for them instead of anger, moved to pity rather than a desire for revenge.  May we not be tempted to rejoice when they are troubled, nor be grieved when they prosper.  We will not benefit from the downfall of our enemies, so we pray that you have mercy on them, and then also give us the grace to forgive them from our heart.  Amen.

–Martin Luther

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