“Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another. Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath:” (Ephesians 4:25-26).
I love the heavens; they are majestic in their beauty. There is nothing more thrilling than walking out on a clear, starry night and observing the sky. Countless stars twinkle brightly against an infinite backdrop of blackest night, and the moon slowly circles the earth, completing its cycle from dusk to dawn. Then at dawn, the sun extends its rays over the horizon, awakening God’s creation to a new day.
However, I think one of the most brilliant displays of God’s beauty is the sunset. It serenely signals the end of the day, telling the world it is time to rest and refresh itself for a new day.
I love the western sunset on the Arizona desert. I have seen the sun go down in London, the Hawaiian Islands, Athens, Jerusalem, and Rome. I have seen the sun slowly slip behind the Sierra Madre mountain range in Mexico. I have seen the sun set in the Caribbean and the St. Thomas Islands. I have seen the sunset of the Colorado Mountains and the Ozark mountains.
The most beautiful sunset I have ever seen, however, was the one I saw in 1972, when I made things right with three enemies. I was finally able to say that the sun had not gone down on my wrath.
I had just attended the Pastors’ School in Hammond, Indiana. Dr. Jack Hyles had preached his famous sermon “Fresh Oil”. He told the story of his daughter’s near death from hemorrhaging after a simple tonsillectomy.
During the crisis, while he desperately prayed for God to save her life, he asked God to show him if there was anyone with whom he needed to make things right. He said that immediately he saw the face of a deacon with whom he had quarreled. At that point in the sermon, he stopped and asked us, “Whose face do you see?”
He gave the invitation, and I went as close to the altar as I could in that packed auditorium. I asked God to show me if I needed to make amends with anyone. I saw three faces in my mind; they were bitter enemies of mine.
I went home and told my wife that I needed to leave for a couple of days so I could make things right with these men. One of the men had done me wrong, but I still needed to make things right. I went to see one man in Indiana, another in Kalamazoo, Michigan; and still another in Ohio. I made things right with all three men.
The sunset that night was the most beautiful sunset I had ever seen. The Emerald Isles were greener, and the topaz hue was a more brilliant yellow than before. The snow-filled mountains reached further to the heavens. The heavenly rose garden was lovelier. The grandeur of the night sky was more majestic.
Why? Because I could go to bed that night knowing there was nothing between me and any other person in the world.
I refuse to go to bed at night pursuing an enemy with imaginary plots of revenge. I refuse to go to bed at night refreshing my mind with my critic’s malicious complaints. I refuse to go to bed plotting a new strategy to foil my adversary. I refuse to go to bed at night welcoming my foes into the dormitory of my mind, so I can fantasize my vengeance. For the last forty-eight years, I have never gone to bed plotting vengeance. I am a happy preacher.
I am still misunderstood and criticized. People write articles about me and preach against me. They use Twitter rants against me. I will preach against wrong not wrongdoers. Those who choose to be enemies of the Word of God, soul winning, King James Bible, and standards I will oppose their stand, but I refuse to go to bed at night a bitter man and an enemy of my enemies.
My children never heard me spew hatred in my home about anyone. They heard about problems at school, but they never heard me talk about those problems. It would not have been right for me to bring bitterness home to my children.
If you have bitterness and hatred in your heart, you will never have peace until you obey this verse and make things right. If you hate someone, you are hurting yourself, not him. He is sleeping peacefully at night, while you lie in bed, tossing and turning until morning.
The song “Nothing Between” says, “Nothing between my soul and the Saviour, Naught of this world’s elusive dreams, I have renounced all sinful pleasure. Jesus is mine; there’s nothing between”. Can you sing that song with a clear conscience?
Whom do you hate with a passion? Is your heart burning with a desire to seek vengeance towards someone? Do you have bitterness towards a spouse or your in-laws? Are you obsessed with someone because of their mistreatment of you or yours. Has someone in the church mistreated you, causing you to have bitterness in your heart towards him, or her? Are you bitter because the preacher has offended you?
There are deacons, Sunday school teachers, bus captains, and choir members with bitterness in their hearts. We would have revival in our churches if each person would get his heart right with God and forgive those who have offended him.
Some of you husbands go home and mistreat your wife because you are angry with your boss at work. You cannot take your anger out on him, so you take it out on your wife. You need to decide that God is in control of your circumstances, and everything is for your own good. Do not go home with bitterness in your heart.
No one is perfect; we are all dirty scoundrels. We have all offended and mistreated other people. If all of us seek vengeance towards those who have mistreated us, we will all be in trouble. If you continue to hold bitterness in your heart towards someone, you will never find happiness.
You will die young because of hatred and bitterness. Instead, you should realize God has forgiven you of far greater sins than the sins people have committed against you. If He can forgive you, then surely you can forgive other people.
Once you have enjoyed the sunset of forgiveness, you will never again enjoy the sunset of vengeance. Once you have tasted the sweetness of forgiveness, once you have bathed in the sunlight of restitution, once you have eaten from the table of heavenly manna, love, and kindness, you will never be satisfied with hatred.
It is not my job to seek vengeance – that is God’s responsibility. I do not know how to play the organ; the organist knows how to do it, and that is her responsibility. I do not know how to play the piano or sing; we have pianists and musicians to do that. If I were to walk into church one day and try to play the piano or organ, I would fail at it. I do not have the training. By the same token, it is not my responsibility to seek vengeance. That is God’s responsibility.
There is a difference between my vengeance and His vengeance. My vengeance is destructive; I want to destroy a person. God’s vengeance seeks to catch a person’s attention so He can salvage him. I am incapable of properly seeking vengeance just as I am incapable of playing the piano properly.
My job is to forgive. It is not Christ-like to be forgiven, because Christ never sinned. On the other hand, it is Christ-like to forgive. If someone treats me wrong and I forgive him, I am being Christ-like.
During my years of pastoring and counseling I have learned many things, but this one thing has been life changing. When something happens to you, you can react in one of two ways; you can become bitter or you can become better. If you are bitter, get right with God. Learn not to let the sun go down on your anger. Then you, too, can have beautiful sunsets.