“They tell me to be discreet, for all intended purposes, they tell me revenge is sweet, and from where they stand I’m sure it is. But I feel nothing for their game where beauty goes unrecognized. All I feel are heat and flame, and all I see are dark eyes.” Bob Dylan.
Jesus wants to teach us a brand new way of looking at life with eyes of wonder, love and acceptance so that you can have bright eyes and a bright soul. I’ve used this quote before, but here it is again – “Christianity is about forgiveness or it’s about nothing at all” – Pastor and author Brian Zahnd. The problem is that the people who are most explicit in our culture in identifying themselves as Christian are not famous for forgiveness. If we are identifying ourselves with Christianity, which is about forgiveness or it’s about nothing at all, but we are not famous for our forgiveness, something has gone very wrong. We say we care about Christianity in America. We say we want our children and grandchildren to be able to live as Christians. But we have a problem.
The dominant, most visible public expression of public Christianity in America, evangelicalism, is in deep trouble. The us vs. them thing is killing us. We have adopted a paradigm of self-identifying ourselves as we are the righteous and they (pick your group) are the unrighteous, and we are going to react toward them by protest, by clenched fist, by furrowed brow, and this attitude and paradigm is killing authentic Christianity in America.
I can’t paraphrase or otherwise say this any better, so this is directly from Pastor Zahnd’s 2010 book Unconditional? The Call of Jesus to Radical Forgiveness. So I’ll just quote from it.
“When we choose to forgive those who intentionally and maliciously harm us instead of perpetuating the cycle of revenge, we become a living imitation of Jesus Christ. And as we do this, we flood a world hell-bent on paybacks with a forgiveness that washes away sin. The world is all too full of the lust for vengeance. This lust is ultimately demonic in nature and is what fuels all our wars – from petty personal conflicts to deadly world wars. Christians are called to opt out of the game of getting even. The saying is that “vengeance is sweet,” but vengeance is sweet only to the sick soul. To those who have tasted the grace of God in Christ, vengeance is bitter as gall. Bob Dylan talks about the perversity of calling revenge ‘sweet’ in his under-appreciated song ‘Dark Eyes.’
‘They tell me to be discreet for all intended purposes,
They tell me revenge is sweet, and from where they stand, I’m sure it is.
But I feel nothing for their game where beauty goes unrecognized,
All I feel are heat and flame and all I feel are dark eyes.’
Revenge is not sweet. It’s the heat and flame of hell and leads to the dark eyes of a lost soul. Those who would aspire to imitate Christ must feel nothing for the game of paybacks. The saying ‘paybacks are hell’ is true in more than one sense. Paybacks are not only hell for the recipient of revenge; paybacks are also hell for the executioner of revenge. It’s the lust for revenge that destroys our souls and keeps us chained in a devil’s hell of exponential hatred and endless retribution. The only way out is the imitation of Christ.”
Who are we imitating? Are we imitating Christ? Or are we dancing with the devil? Just what kind of light is the lamp of your soul beaming?
“”The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!” Matthew 6:22-23 ESV.