This morning in my Bible reading, I came across the absolutely horrific story of dysfunction in David’s family. Not only was David an adulterer who tried to cover his actions with murder, but his children were downright awful at times! (Moral 1 of the story: God is never out of reach of the one who is truly repentant of his/her actions. Moral 2 of the story: You can be one after God’s own heart and still have prodigal children.)
Anyway, right after David repents from his adulterous relationship with Bathsheba, we find the story of a few of David’s children. I’m going to summarize the events, but you can read the entire account in 2 Samuel 13 at www.biblegateway.com.
As happened in Bible times, David had multiple wives. That made for a very interesting blended family of half-siblings. Amnon, one of David’s sons, fell in love (really, lust) with his half-sister, Tamar. He devised a plan to have his way with her—and it worked. After he forcibly raped her, his lust turned to absolute hatred and he threw her out, humiliated and disgraced.
In biblical times, losing one’s virginity outside of marriage left a woman an absolute disgrace, forever unwanted by any man. Tamar was no longer acceptable as a wife. However, she had another brother—a full-blood brother, Absalom. As a brother should be, Absalom was fiercely protective of his sister. He lovingly brought her into his home to care for her, but his anger toward Amnon burned deep within him.
Finally, Amnon could not handle his anger any longer. He devised a plan—to murder his half-brother in an effort to avenge the crime against his sister. Absalom did just that, and then ran away. And, David was left mourning the loss of both sons.
This story is unbelievably difficult to stomach in so many ways. Rape. Incest. Lust. Murder. Deceit. Everything, in every way, reeks of the most vile dysfunction in a family—a family whose patriarch is known as a man after God’s own heart.
As I read this story this morning, I found myself reflecting on a conversation I had with my own brother this weekend. As he should be, he is fiercely protective of me—his baby sister (I actually only look younger). He has a lot of anger toward my ex-husband for the wrongs he committed against me. He probably could not say one nice thing about my ex-husband, and I don’t think it would be wise for the two of them to be in the same room together—maybe not even the same county.
I’m not even sure how the conversation came up this weekend, but something was said about my ex-husband again pastoring a church. As my brother and I were talking, he said, “You are a better person than I am. If I were you, I would have taken all of those emails you have and sent them to the church long ago. I would have exposed him for what he is.”
You see, at each church my ex-husband has served since our divorce, I somehow learn the reason for our divorce. Without fail, the reasons seem to involve my alleged indiscretions, my decision that I simply no longer loved him, my decision that I wanted to marry someone else, my choice to kick him out. I have yet to hear a story of his three-year long affair or his active dating on an online dating site long before divorce was even mentioned.
While I believe in complete forgiveness, grace, and restoration when one has truly repented and changed their ways, I find it difficult to accept that my ex-husband has truly reached that place in his life. I pray that he does, but I’ve yet to see the fruit.
And, within my possession to this day, I have very detailed correspondence between him and his girlfriend in the final years of our marriage and copies of his online dating profile. The only way I could file for divorce on the biblical basis of infidelity (which was of utmost importance to me) was to produce proof of the adulterous relationship. Therefore, I did produce undeniable evidence, evidence that I continue to hold onto for a variety of reasons undisclosed here.
And, yes, the thought has often crossed my mind that I should send those emails to his church, expose the truth.
But, I have not—and I will not. I have even had others offer to send them for me, and I have refused to let them do it. Oh, yes, it would be sweet to clear my name of the accusations thrown against me. It would be nice to have my reputation cleared. And, honestly, it would feel oh so good to get revenge, to see him suffer a fraction of the pain that I have experienced, to give him a good dose of his own medicine.
And yet, I know in my heart that Jesus said to love your enemies and pray for those who curse you (Matthew 5:43-48). He said that if someone strikes you on one cheek to turn the other cheek as well (Matthew 5:38). He told us to look at others as harassed, helpless sheep in need of a shepherd (Matthew 9:36). Jesus changed the model of revenge to one of love and compassion. He told the story of the good Samaritan—the one who was hated and reviled by the Jews and yet was the only one willing to stop and help—and he told us to go and do likewise.
And, therefore, I must choose forgiveness over hatred. I must choose compassion over bitterness. I must choose to pray for blessings instead of curses. I must choose to become a servant of all, just as my Jesus chose to serve even Judas Iscariot as he washed the feet of the disciples.
Yet, I still get my sweet revenge…
How you might ask…
First, I trust God to be my defender. I have asked God to let my righteousness shine like the dawn and the justice of my cause like the noonday sun (Psalm 37:6). As I pray that God will protect my reputation, protect me from the slanderous attacks against my character, it seems that he inevitably brings along someone who knows the whole truth, someone willing to stand up for me—without my intervention.
Next, I focus on becoming the woman he created me to be. You see, I know that I am God’s masterpiece, created to do good works that he ordained for me long ago (Ephesians 2:10). I will not allow the hurt and pain my ex-husband caused to define who I am. I will choose to become better and not bitter. I will let God use the trials of this world to refine me and not define me. I will become the most amazing person I can possibly be—and show him exactly what he gave up!
Finally, I will remember that what man intended for evil, God will use for good (Genesis 50: 20). I must remember that when I surrender my life to God, he will work it all together into an amazing mosaic called life—and he promises that it will work for my good (Romans 8:28). I will cling to the promise that these trials and tribulations are brief, momentary, but they are working an eternal glory that far outweighs the pain (2 Corinthians 4:17). I will trust that as I humble myself under his mighty hand and allow him to change me and transform me, he will lift me up at his appointed hour (James 4:10). No pain will ever be wasted; it will all be used for my good and his glory!
While earthly revenge may seem sweet, it only causes immense suffering to all those involved. What suffering would I experience if I chose the worldly path? I might clear my name, but I would hurt my children. I would set a precedent for them that clearly says, “It’s better to get even than to forgive.” It would tell them that everyone in this world is worthy of forgiveness and grace—except their own biological father. It would hurt the church where he serves, those who are trusting him to lead where God is calling. It would hurt the name of Christ to have his children behaving as the world does. It would only extend the circle of damage already caused by our divorce, and I refuse to cause any more damage.
I refuse to live my life shackled by the hatred and bitterness that would cause me to seek revenge. Instead, I choose to let the righteous anger that burns within me—anger for the wrongs done against me and the reputation of Christ—to fuel my passion to encourage those who are beaten down by the pain of adultery and divorce. I choose to let my passion drive me to live a life of complete purity and encourage others to join me. I choose to let the pains of this life compel me to experience all the fullness of God’s grace and power that is available to me.
I choose to let God seek revenge his way, knowing that his way is always best.
Don’t forget, this Sunday at 5:00 pm EST, I will be a guest on The Sitting Room (610 WTVN) with Kathy Chiero discussing Life after Adultery. Can’t wait to meet in the Sitting Room!
Check out the awesome new Bible app iniative, seeking to make mobile more inspirational! My friend, Brian, is working to create at least five new Bible apps for your phone. Check it out at www.thebibleappproject.org