By Pastor Scott W. Rosekrans
One of my favorite movies of all time is The Wizard of Oz. It’s so rich in symbolism and imagery. So much so, I’m using it in an upcoming children’s sermon on anger, revenge and forgiveness.
Spoiler Alert! If you haven’t seen the movie, read no further. 🙂
The Wicked Witch of the West was so consumed with anger that she made getting Dorothy (“I’ll get you my pretty, and your little dog too.”) her life’s mission. She blamed Dorothy for the untimely demise of her sister, the Wicked Witch of the East, and vowed revenge. Dorothy had killed her sister (in an unfortunate accident) and now possessed the ruby red slippers the witch coveted. The witch resorted to several tricks that she had in her bag in an effort to get her sister’s shoes. The witch, overcome by hatred and anger, was incapable of forgiveness and, in the end, it consumed her.
Revenge is an uncontrollable monster that feeds on itself. Each act of retaliation brings another. Good thing for us, the revenge cycle can be halted by forgiveness.
This is what the Apostle Paul is talking about in his letter to the church in Rome. Paul says:
“Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is all possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil but, overcome evil with good. -Romans 12: 17-21, NIV
Paul had previously told them that their love should be shown without pretending. Our love must be genuine. He tells them, and us, to hate evil and hold on to what is good. Love each other like members of your own family and be the best at showing honor to each other. Bless people who harass you he says, bless and don’t curse them. Don’t let them get to you.
Being nice and loving people you like is the easy part. Paul raises the bar when he instructs us, to the best of our ability, to live at peace with all people, don’t pay back anyone for their evil actions with your own evil actions. Without argument, this is great advice but, some people make living in peace difficult.
¶102 of our United Methodist Book of Discipline, Distinctive Wesleyan Emphases, tells us that grace pervades our understanding of Christian faith and life. It says; “by grace we mean the undeserved, unmerited and loving action of God in human existence through the ever-present Holy Spirit.”
It is doubtful that the Wicked Witch had the Holy Spirit within her. If she had, she could have found it in her heart to forgive Dorothy and maybe enlist her legion of flying monkeys to engage in some mission work for the local Munchkins.
Give this some thought, if you’re angry with someone and it just isn’t in your heart to forgive them, please realize the wonderful opportunity that you are missing to experience the joy of having that weight lifted from your shoulders. A joy you could share with others who are in the grips of anger.
Let your joy grow by forgiving someone who has hurt you.
Scott Rosekrans serves as pastor to the people of Community United Methodist Church in Port Hadlock, Washington.