The period called Lent was intended to get us thinking about turning from sin. Admitting that we are sinners is one of the most difficult things we humans are asked to do, and we frequently dodge the assignment by convincing ourselves that if we haven't done something horrifically bad that we really haven't sinned. The reality is, we all have and we all regularly do disobey God -- that's sin.
Easier for us, you will undoubtedly agree, is calling to mind those times when someone has "sinned against" us. We have little difficulty remembering even the most insignificant slights. Our humanity enables us to hold grudges more tenaciously than superglue. If we take the cultures lesson -- we look for every opportunity to get even. It is what drives everything from street fights to sports rivalries to reality shows.
God has a different instruction, however. Jesus, explaining what God's word really means, said that our response has to be forgiveness -- no ifs, ands or buts. To drive the point home, Jesus said repeatedly that our refusal to forgive will result in us remaining unforgiven. When we pray the Lord's prayer we even ask God to "forgive us in the same way we forgive others".
What makes forgiveness difficult is the niggling thought that somehow we are letting the offender off the hook. We all know people who are locked in perpetual victimhood because they are slaves to the offence. We are all too familiar with people who have been re-victimized by courts who fail to provide justice. We have all been victims of wrongs we could not prove. Few people reach the end of their days without wondering if some offence they experienced will ever be punished.
As noted before, we think of forgiveness as letting the offender off the hook. What we need to know is that we are letting her or him off our hook onto God's hook. Deuteronomy 32:35 says "It is mine to avenge; I will repay. In due time their foot will slip; their day of disaster is near and their doom rushes upon them," and verse 43 says "Rejoice, O nations, with His people, for He will avenge the blood of His servants; He will take vengeance on His enemies and make atonement for His land and people." (NIV) Psalm 9:12, 58:10, 79:10, 94:1 and Jeremiah 51:36 restate that certainty. God will hold offenders accountable. No wrong done us will go without redress. Romans 12:19 and Hebrews 10:30 caution us against seeking revenge; reminding us that God said, "It is mine to avenge; I will repay."
What's the catch? We have to wait. Redress is a certainty, but it will come in God's time. In the sixth chapter of Revelation we read of the waiting saints who, "called out in a loud voice, 'How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until You judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?" (NIV) The answer is: in God's time.
Let's not just give up something pleasant for Lent -- let's really get right with God by permanently turning away from those things that offend God, and by forgiving those who have "trespassed" or sinned against us. Because of God's love, God will take care of it, and God will take care of us.