Sermons

Summary: When personally wronged or injured, respond with an outrageous attitude.

May 20, 2001

Relationships in the Kingdom – Part 5

INTRODUCTION

Alexander Dumas’ book, The Count of Monte Cristo, has to be one of the most captivating novels ever written. I first read it when I was in high school. The primary character, Edmond Dantes, is a handsome young man with a promising future. But he is framed by some jealous rivals and spends 14 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. After escaping from prison, he disguises himself and starts a new life as the mysterious Count of Monte Cristo. He spends the next 10 years calculating his revenge on the four men who wronged him. One by one, each of these four men’s lives is ruined as Dantes systematically unleashes his plan.

ILLUS – In college I witnessed another incredibly well crafted piece of revenge. Nearly equal in its epic proportions to that of the Count of Monte Cristo. This event happened to involve one of best friends, Barton Shaw, whose father, by the way was the dean of the Seminary.

It all started when Tracy Thomas opened a door and threw a cup of water in Barton’s face. A rather childish and immature little prank.

But for weeks, possibly even months, Barton plotted his revenge.

On a certain weekend, Tracy was gone from school. Barton had convinced one of the R.A.’s to let him into Tracy’s dorm room. Being somewhat of an Industrial arts wizard, Barton showed up at the dorms with his toolbox, bag after bag of equipment from the hardware store, and a large diagram, that looked something like blueprints for a house.

During an entire Saturday, Barton worked diligently in Tracy’s room. He had fishing line going through eyelets screwed into the ceiling. More fishing line going through eyelets on the back of the door. A plastic tarp filled with several buckets of water was hung from the ceiling. And to top it off, a razor blade attached to a line and balanced with counter weights so that when the door was opened, the blade would rise and cut a hole in the tarp and releasing several gallons of water right on Tracy’s head. When Tracy returned late on Sunday night, a nervous crowd of spectators was milling around the hallway. Tracy unlocked his door to go inside – I must say, the whole thing worked like a charm.

At this point Tracy Thomas realized he was pranking with the master – even if he chose to retaliate, Barton Shaw’s genius for revenge would only strike again – and with greater intensity.

Tracy’s only option was to let it go.

We’re led to believe revenge is sweet. That it’s a self-gratifying activity that purges the soul.

Ever read a bumper sticker and realize you and the driver of the car, would probably never be best friends? The idea being expressed is so foreign to the way you think, you simply realize person displaying the slogan is someone with whom you likely will not see eye to eye.

Kim and I saw an unusual bumper sticker a couple of weeks ago. It read, “If you’re looking for your cat, check under my tire.” Though I found it somewhat funny, I could tell Kim might not have much in common with the driver of that vehicle.

How about stickers like these…

Do unto others before they do unto you

Shoot first…ask questions later

I don’t get mad, I get even

These are statements from people who make it sound like they just don’t want to get along with others. Such slogans betray a belief in retaliation, fighting back, and defending one’s rights. They all seem to say, “Revenge is sweet.”

As we saw in the clip earlier, Jesus has some different thoughts on retaliation. Since every person is made in the image of God, He’s interested in making sure relationships among all people are not filled with violence and hatred, but with patient understanding and radical love.

His wisdom for us?

When personally wronged or injured, respond with an outrageous attitude.

TRANSITION: His teaching on revenge begins with these words in Matthew 5:38 (p. 959)… “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’

THAT OLD LAW WAS WIDELY MISUNDERSTOOD

Jesus was right, the crowd had certainly heard this before.

It was the concept of exact retribution – or the principle of the punishment needing to fit the crime. Out of the Old Testament we can read…

Exodus 21:23-25

23But if there is serious injury, you are to take life for life, 24eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, 25burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise.

Leviticus 24:19-20

19If anyone injures his neighbor, whatever he has done must be done to him: 20fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth. As he has injured the other, so he is to be injured.

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