18 Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the Lord.
Let’s look at this passage. Verse 18 is the center of the Torah. Leviticus is the third book of the Bible and verse 18 is the center verse. It is so well known that we sometimes don’t think about its implications. Today, I’d like to concentrate on the verses that precede it. Don’t carry hatred in your heart. That can be more difficult than it sounds. When we have been badly hurt by someone, it can be tempting to carry the hatred that might rise up in us. This is especially true if a loved one has been killed or injured either in an accident caused by drinking and driving, or murdered. Sometimes there is no resolution to the cause of our pain and this makes it even more difficult to move on and let go.
This also applies to the prohibition against vengeance. It is so tempting! When something terrible happens we want to strike back! Even though the death penalty has been shown to not be a deterrent to crime and most civilized countries have stopped using it, whenever a murder has occurred, there are cries for the perpetrator to be executed. Whatever happened to the phrase, “Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord?” We might claim that we want justice, but what we really want is revenge. In order to rid ourselves of hatred and not seek vengeance, nor bear a grudge, we need to forgive. This is not easy and we can’t do it without God’s help. This does not mean we need to forget or have good feelings about someone who has committed a crime or has caused us pain, it means that we need to let go of the bad feelings so that we can move on. Hatred, a desire for vengeance and bearing grudges doesn’t hurt the person our feelings are directed at, they hurt us. God doesn’t want this. God wants us to move on with our lives in a positive way.
If we ask, God will show us the way.
Oh Lord, it is not easy to forgive those who have hurt us or damaged the community in some way. Help us to remove hatred from our hearts and minds so that we can focus our attention on you. Amen.