The Lord is with me, like a mighty champion: my persecutors
will stumble, they will not triumph. In their failure they will
be put to utter shame, to lasting unforgettable confusion . . .
Let me witness the vengeance you take on them.
As I reflect on this very human reading from Jeremiah, it’s tempting to feel smug about the superiority of the New Testament ethic of turn the other cheek vs. God take vengeance on my enemies.
Then I thought about the local reaction to Creighton University playing in a championship basketball game this past weekend. The "good guys" (Creighton) beat our archrivals in what was more than just another exciting game with the desired outcome.
Many devout Creighton fans relish reciting examples of our foe’s bad behavior from years past such as the way some of their fans hurled obscenities at our best player’s parents. Some of us pray that the Lord will assist our team in causing our persecutors to stumble. We tend to see a Creighton win over them as a triumph of good. In other words, we’re a lot like Jeremiah.
Of course I know that God could not care who wins any basketball game, just as God could not care who becomes assistant vice president of Yada Yada Company or who is chosen Popcorn Days Queen. But we often remember hurts, defeats and slights for years, turning those who inflicted them into foes. Who among us cannot recall the birthday party we weren’t invited to in sixth grade? Who is not secretly delighted that Miss Gorgeous who snubbed us at 15 now outweighs us by 100 pounds?
So how do we become more like Jesus than Jeremiah? I’m still seeking the answer. I think we can start by admitting this failing and praying for help in overcoming it, especially during Holy Week. If Jesus could forgive his persecutors from the cross, maybe we could finally let go of a 20-year resentment.
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