A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.
Proverbs 15: 1 (NIV)
As a leader, it is sometimes difficult to trust God when it comes to justice—for ourselves. Although unusual, it is not uncommon to be hurt by those we work with in our field of ministry. If we believe the offense to be unjust, our human response is to want the offender punished. Left unresolved, the situation can cause bitterness and ultimately impact our relationship with that person, our team and even our Lord.
A great example of this is the little-known story behind the famous painting of The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci. Da Vinci had an adversary who was also a painter. Just before da Vinci began to paint this famous picture, he had a terrible argument with this person. It went unresolved and da Vinci was apparently beset with bitterness. So when da Vinci painted the face of Judas Iscariot, he decided to use the face of his foe as the reference for the face of the one who betrayed Jesus.
What better revenge than for everyone to see his adversary as the face of the man who betrayed the Lord. However, as he continued painting the faces of the other disciples and often tried to paint the face of Jesus, he could not make any progress. Annoyed and perplexed, it took some time but da Vinci finally realized what was wrong. His bitterness and hatred was keeping him from finishing the face of Jesus. When he ultimately made peace with his fellow painter, he repainted the face of Judas and with a humble heart was able to paint the face of Jesus.
God is absolutely just and only He can ensure justice is given. If we seek revenge based upon our need for righting a wrong, then we presume we are wiser than He. Many disagreements are misunderstandings that stem from unrelated problems. So even when we are deeply hurt, it is our responsibility as a leader to trust God and be the first to forgive. Attacks are not always personal and tempering our reaction can keep a minor matter from becoming unnecessarily monumental. It is also wise, however, to ask God to reveal sinful or selfish intentions in the situation. While forgiveness is immediate, consequences may remain and rebuilding trust can take time. Being cautious does not mean we haven’t forgiven (Proverbs 22:3). It is merely being a prudent leader, willing to clear the air and forgive an offense while guarding our heart and ministry.
“You don’t have to trust someone in order to forgive them, but you do have to forgive them in order to make trust possible again.”