I am not a huge fan of the graphic novel, but I read one many years ago that still has a strong hold on me; a parable of the power of revenge. I cannot remember either the author or the title, so if you know it, please let me know. It tells the story of a warrior who suffered defeat in a battle and the loss of much that he held dear. He swore revenge, and in his distress called upon the gods of vengeance to answer him. They heard, and one appeared offering him a sword by which he would become invincible: he would suffer defeat no more. The only drawback was that he would be unable to ever put it down again. He would have to sleep and eat with the sword in his hand for the rest of his life.

In his distress the warrior agreed and took up the sword. He felt a strange power flow through him from the sword to his arm, to his body, to his soul. He felt invincible. The warning about never being able to put this sword down seemed insignificant. He never wanted to put it down, he felt so powerful with the sword in his hand! At once he set off in pursuit of his enemies. One by one he tracked them down, and as the gods had promised, he was never defeated. In fact as time went on he became ever more unassailable. No one could stand against him, everyone feared him. His wrath became truly fearsome. He became a legend of power and hatred.

But the warrior came to know an agony that was literally killing him. This was indeed no ordinary sword. In fact it was no sword at all, but rather one of the gods of vengeance; a serpent. He had not picked up a sword, he had allowed, he had invited, he had welcomed the serpent to take hold of him, to sink his loathsome fangs into his hand. The shape of a sword in his hand was appearance only; merely a form that the serpent wore.

His victories belonged to the serpent, and with every battle, with every victory, with every passing day the serpent consumed more of the warrior. Already his arm was completely inside the serpent, whose head was now at his shoulder. Now the warrior would do anything to put the sword down, but never would again. Eventually the serpent would simply consume him, and he would be no more; eaten by the vengeance he swore on his enemies.

In a similar way, we too are affected by the vengeance and hatred we feel for others. We may feel it gives us power, but that power comes at the cost of our own lives. Our wrath may hurt them, but it will consume us. It will take over our relationships and our personality. Soon all that will be left of us is our wrath; all that was once ourselves will have disintegrated. That is what the great serpent, Satan offers us. Many in distress, in ignorance or in pride have taken him up on his offer of vengeance, believing this was the only way to deal with the wrongs they had suffered.

But Jesus offers us something else. He offers us completeness, wholeness, integration, the daily renewal of our hope and the fulfilment of our dreams in ways that we little understood when we were young and foolish. What Jesus asks of us in order to lead us to this good place is for us to forgive those who have wronged us, and even more than that: to love them. This may be an easy thing to say, but if you have been wronged by the evils of this world, it is not an easy thing to do. I say this not as one who has suffered much from evil. There are many, especially among the women that Pam seeks to minister to, who have suffered such violations of their bodies and personalities that I shudder to even hear their stories. I know so little of such pain.

Yet what I do know teaches me this: that forgiveness and even love for those who have wronged us is not only possible, it is necessary. But it is only possible if you allow Jesus to forgive you first. You too have wronged others. You too have been the author and perpetrator of evil, not only its victim. You will never have the ability to truly forgive and even love your enemies and until you have been truly forgiven. And only Jesus has the power to forgive you. Only Jesus has the power to make you whole. To Satan, you are just another meal.

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