Recently I came across a new title by Erwin Lutzer, When You've Been Wronged: Moving From Bitterness to Forgiveness. The contents of the book are no stranger to any pastor who has experience in ministry. The main thrust of When You've Been Wronged is that when Christians have been wronged by others, what will they then do? Will they be offended and hold on to their offense, never letting go, or will they release it to live without the bondage that comes with unforgiveness?
Lutzer's work contains nine chapters, several of which are "Satan's Mixed Bag of Offensives" (1), "The Blinding Power of an Offense" (2), "From Bitterness to Blessing" (7), "The High Cost of Reconciliation" (8), and "When Reconciliation Fails" (9).
I firmly believe that Christians, especially pastors, can never read enough books on the dynamics of church life. Reading much in this area helps to develop wisdom. There is the ideal standard in the Bible of behavior for God's people, and then there is the reality of how Christians actually act. While not all works published on this topic are equal in benefit and insight, there is usually something helpful to be gleaned from most of them. When You've Been Wronged focuses on the Christian's response to being wronged. The one qualification I believe would have improved the book is if Lutzer would have acknowledged that sometimes people react to perceived wrongs as well. Not every time someone feels they have been wronged is it based on a legitimate offense. Sometimes, because of our pride, we think an offense has been committed against us when in truth no offense has been committed at all. It is our pride that reacts and wants to take offense. Then we respond with anger, bitterness, and sometimes we seek revenge.
Lutzer shows great understanding of how some deal with an offense (or as I mentioned above, a perceived offense). His insight can only be the result of years of ministry experience. He says there are five traits characteristic of the person who is in bondage to an offense. The first is that they are walled in by bitterness (26-27); the second is that they are blind to their own personal faults (27-30); the third is that they search for vengeance (30-34); the fourth is that they are bent on destroying the offending party (34-36); and the final one is that they have given themselves over to idolatry (36-39). There is much good material to be found within these pages, such as when Lutzer talks about how committed the offended is to holding on to the offense: they will make sure "that no one will [be allowed] to challenge his right to deep bitterness and resentment" (27). "[A]ll information that is favorable to him is allowed entry and encouraged; information that will challenge or admonish him will be filtered out. He will spend time with friends who can be trusted to confirm his bitterness, to help justify his feelings" (ibid.). "Facts are skewed, information is twisted, and sometimes reality is ignored in order to justify bitterness and anger" (ibid.). Those caught in the clenches of bitterness against others for offenses may find this book challenging and painful to read. It confronts the root of where such bitterness comes from: pride.
If you are trying to understand your own feelings of bitterness against someone else for what you believe they did against you, or if you are trying to understand the bondage that someone else may be locked in, read When You've Been Wronged. It will be well worth your time. -- Ray Hammond, Christian Book Previews.com
You’ve been wronged.
Have lies have been told about you? Have you been rejected? Maybe you’ve been the victim of abuse. Perhaps it’s a broken promise. Or someone betrayed a confidence.
It’s only natural that you would be angry. These wounds cry out for justice! But what if justice isn’t possible this side of heaven? What if the damage can’t be undone? What then?
You have a decision to make.
You can hold on to your anger until your anguish builds a prison of bitterness. In this cage you will live a diminished and pain-filled life. Or you can choose to forgive.
Erwin Lutzer discusses dealing with difficult people such as “spear throwers” and “destroyers,” as well as handling conflict among family members and Christians in the courtroom. In this concise, quickly read volume, you’ll learn how to move from bitterness to blessing.
By choosing forgiveness you are choosing abundant life. It’s a decision you can make today!