She had a list.
One of the most iconic characters in the Game of Thrones has got to be Arya Stark. Her family torn apart from without and within by the machination of politics, Arya embodied an extreme level of revenge killing and commitment to death dealing. After her family was torn apart and she was sent on the run, Arya created and nursed a list of those whom she planned to kill — some were on her list because of what they did to her family (and the family business of ruling the North), some names were added because she witnessed their extreme cruelty unleashed on others.
Sometimes, don’t we wish that we had such a list? A list of the people who had done us wrong, or who have denied us or who had been directly responsible for the demise of a relationship, or a business? A list of thorns in the flesh that seem to exist purely for our pain and anguish.
Maybe we do have a list.
A list of wrongs — hurts, pains, failures, rejection, condemnation, unforgiveness, slights, humiliation. — wrongs done to others and of wrongs others may have done to you. A veritable list of names that, like Arya, we pick at like a scab that is trying to heal over a wound. Reliving the wrongs constantly and daily, reminding ourselves what we would do when we “get our chance”.
God calls us to soften our hearts. Christ Jesus teaches us that we are to love our enemies and to pray for those who persecute us (Matthew 5:44). How then do we demonstrate this love? It all starts in your heart. I was once told that “standing in a car park and calling yourself a car does not make you a car, just a foolish man”. Don’t try to fool anyone, not least yourself – for “circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter” (Romans 2:29). It requires a change of heart and a commitment to that change.
Proverbs 17:9 says that “whoever covers an offense seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates close friends”.
Rejection is not fun either, especially it comes from a loved one or someone you least expected it from. It can feel like your only friend is the darkness that surrounds you, shutting you in so that you cannot escape this prison of hate resentment and rejection (Psalms 88:9, 17-18). Sometimes the pain feels like it has lasted an eternity (Psalms 88:15).
But there is always hope. Cry out to God for help! God loves you and cares for you.
How can we be sure of God’s love for us? The Apostle Paul listed 5 rhetorical questions:
- If God is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31)
- He who did not spare his own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things? (Romans 8:32)
- Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies (Romans 8:33)
- Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died and was raised up, and He is interceding for us (Romans 8:34)
- Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? (Romans 8:35)
Does it mean that it is wrong for Christians to exert their legal rights or take up a suit to protect their interests? Not quite. 1 Corinthians 6:1-8 provides that a Christian’s first resort should not be the secular courts and there are instances where going to court is an overkill. Matthew 18:15-17 further provides a 4-step approach which implicitly culminates in recourse to the courts. There is great wisdom here, as one should never be “trigger happy”. Protecting your rights and interests could ultimately translate to being a good steward of your resources and taking care of your loved ones, and whether your action glorifies God. As with all things, count your costs well.
Forgive your enemy, the person who has done you wrong, even if that person is yourself. Forgive because Christ has died for us and God has forgiven you. Protect your interests, but do it in love, without malice, hate or anger. Learn to forgive and forget the wrong. And it all starts with trying.
Start with your list.