I grew up in an environment in which “losing your temper” was a normal, accepted way to express anger. Yelling, name-calling, cursing, and violence were just part of the background. As a result, those became my habits as well. I’ve learned that there are better ways to deal with anger, but old habits die hard when an issue hits an especially sensitive spot.
Becky and I attended a human trafficking awareness event this weekend. We watched TRICKED, a film that graphically details the horrors of modern sex trafficking. The story is raw, brutal, and difficult to watch. When I see how precious, innocent children are targeted, dehumanized, victimized, and treated as a disposable commodity, I feel angry.
No, that’s wrong. I feel ANGRY. I want the perpetrators punished. I want them to suffer. I want them to writhe in agony for every moment of their miserable, worthless lives. And then I want something really bad to happen to them.
Like I said, old habits die hard.
Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”
Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. (Matthew 18:21-22)
I used to think forgiveness was a feeling. I thought when my faith got strong enough I’d feel forgiving.
Now I know I’ll probably never feel like forgiving the people who prey on innocent children, and that’s okay. I can still be angry, but I can choose to forgive them anyway.
I used to think forgiveness was an event. Now I know I need to forgive again and again as I continue to confront this horrible evil.
I used to think forgiveness meant forgetfulness. Now I know these criminals must be held accountable by society for their actions.
I used to think justice meant punishment and retribution. Now I know God’s idea of justice isn’t about any of that.
God’s justice is about reconciliation, about setting things right. We know God wants every innocent victim restored to wholeness. But He wants the same thing for every perpetrator.
He wants every person who thinks he has to buy sex to find healing and acceptance and the ability to form real, loving relationships. He wants every trafficker to truly repent, to understand the value of every single individual person.
He wants us, you and me, to be instruments in that process.
He wants me, and perhaps you, to apologize and seek forgiveness when we allow anger to dredge up old habits of using physical or emotional violence to vent frustrations. He wants transformation.
I used to think the way to beat a bully was to become a bigger, better bully.
Now I know we defeat darkness with light.
[bctt tweet=”I used to think the way to beat a bully was to become a bigger bully. Now I know we defeat darkness with light.” via=”no”]