How do I respond to unjust treatment?

The Rev Tim Smith, pastor at Hele Road Baptist Church in Torquay. Photo: Contributed

The Rev Tim Smith, pastor at Hele Road Baptist Church in Torquay. Photo: Contributed - Credit: Archant

“I will never forgive them, and I’m a forgiving girl”.   
Those were the emotionally charged words of Karen Wilson, whose husband Julian was one of 39 post office workers who had their convictions quashed in the Royal Courts of Justice last Friday.   
Julian Wilson was Postmaster of a post office branch near Redditch until, in 2008, he was charged with false accounting. Back in the year 2000, The Post Office introduced a new IT system – Horizon – following which, Julian’s branch accounts stopped adding up.   
Convicted of the charge, Mr Wilson was sentenced to 300 hours of community service, and as part of his punishment he was forced to undertake the menial and humiliating task of cleaning graves, alongside other convicted people.   
Karen told how, following his conviction, her husband was unable to gain new employment; “He couldn’t get a job, so I had three jobs,” she explained.   
To make ends meet, she also sold all the jewellery her husband had ever bought her, including her engagement ring, something she never told Julian she had done.   
Although last Friday’s court decision was greeted with expressions of understandable joy and relief, it came too late for Julian Wilson, who was diagnosed with bowel cancer and passed away in 2016.   
Karen Wilson summed up the devastating impact this miscarriage of justice had had on their lives, saying, “They threw so many bombs and grenades at us, and blew us apart!”   
I cried as I listened to Karen recount the horrifying ordeal both her and her late husband had experienced, and I wondered how does anyone come to terms with the feelings of anger, bitterness and unforgiveness towards your accusers, that are the understandable consequence?   
One author who imagined how one individual might respond to such personal injustice was Frenchman Alexandre Dumas, whose classic 19th century novel “The Count of Monte Cristo”, tells the story of betrayal experienced by Edmund Dantes who, on his wedding day, is falsely accused by those whom he thought were friends, and he’s sentenced to a life of incarceration on an island prison.   
Whilst there, Dantes becomes friends with another prisoner, Abbe Faria - an Italian priest and scholar – who teaches him a great deal, and who also tells him of a secret treasure on the island of Monte Cristo (which translates into English as “The Mountain of Christ”). 
Following the priest’s demise, Edmund Dantes executes a dramatic escape from prison and, after discovering the treasure, vows vengeance against those who betrayed him.   
And so, when Edmund returns to France as “The Count of Monte Cristo” he, one by one, destroys the lives of each of his former friends.   
But the novel concludes with Dantes realising, too late, that satisfying his vengeance fails to bring him the closure and peace he craved, and so he disappears, leaving only a letter of regret expressing the realisation that, “in God’s hands alone resides supreme power and infinite wisdom”.   
In the first book of the Old Testament, we find the true story of another person who knew the life-changing devastation of betrayal and injustice.   
First, Joseph is sold into slavery in Egypt by his duplicitous brothers, and then he is imprisoned, following a false accusation of sexual assault by his master’s wife.   
Over twenty years later, when the tables are turned in a remarkable way, Joseph refuses to exact vengeance on his brothers; instead he, almost unbelievably, extends to them total forgiveness, telling them in Genesis 50:20, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good”.   
Ultimately, Joseph saw that his life was in God’s hands.   
The apostle Paul urged Christian folk to have a similar perspective on life, even when unjust treatment leaves you with understandable feelings of wanting to take matters into your own hands.  “Dear friends, never take revenge”, writes Paul in Romans 12:19, “leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, “I will take revenge; I will pay them back,” says the Lord.”