When The Family Feuds

At the heartbeat of American Folklore is one of the most notorious family feuds in hillbilly history – the feud between the Hatfields and the McCoys.

According to one of the descendents of the McCoy Family the two families were closely related through marriage and friendship until the civil war. Both families were sympathetic to the south… all except for Asa Harmon McCoy who joined the union army. During the heat of battle, Harmon broke his leg and was discharged. When he returned he was informed that he would receive a visit from the The Logan Wildcats (Confederate Raiders formed by Devil Arse Hatfield). One day, Devil Arse tracked down Harmon and killed him while he was in hiding. Because Harmon’s military act of service was considered an act of infidelity, it was believed that Harmon brought this upon himself and the murder was never brought to trial.

Things were pretty calm until the fall of 1878 when Old Randall McCoy thought he spotted one of his pigs being stolen by one of his wife’s Hatfield relatives – Floyd Hatfield. Randall demnaded that Floyd be brought to trial. In the end, the final verdict hinged on the testimony of Old Randall’s nephew – Bill Staton. The real issue was one of property lines – the Hatfields believed the pig to be theirs because it was on their property. Staton swore that the pig belonged to Floyd Hatfield. The jury was made up of 6 Hatfields and 6 McCoys. One of the McCoy jurors, Sekirk McCoy had bad feelings against the famiy and voted in favor of the Hatfields. Old Randall lost. Because Staton betrayed Old Randall, Staton was shot to death by Paris and Sam McCoy who were acquitted with a plea of self defense. Even though it was Devil Arse Hatfield that arranged for the acquittal as an act of reconciliation, the McCoys were deeply offended that the two boys were tried at all. This left bitter feelings between the McCoy’s and the Hatfields.

Soon after the trial, full blown war broke out when three of Old Randall’s son attacked Devil Arse’s younger brother unprovoked and killed him. By the time the feud was over dozens would die.

Such a tragic story of actions based on misunderstanding, unforgiveness and bitterness. It’s amazing what people will choose to believe when they refuse to forgive. It’s amazing what people will do when their own sense of personal pride is offended and they allow bitterness to take root in their soul. Even simple acts of friendship and reconciliation become twisted in the mind of someone who is given over to bitterness.

Here is the tragic truth about bitterness. Bitterness leads us to declare war against our brother. Bitterness leads us to confuse revenge for justice. In one’s quest for revenge, we become less human… less authentic… less Christian. If we take our lead from the founder of Christianity, Jesus Christ, then we are hard pressed to find a reason to declare war. After all, according to the Psalmist, He does not treat us according to how our sins deserve. But… He shows mercy.

Gordon MacDonald writes…It may be infinitely worse to refuse to forgive than to murder, because the latter may be an impulse of a moment of heat; whereas the former is a cold and deliberate choice of the heart.

So… how does one forgive someone? Here are some steps that I developed from Matthew 18.

STEP 1: Remember that you have been forgiven a greater debt

•Reflect on how God has forgiven you. This is the first step of all forgiveness.

•The cross of Christ not only paid for the sins we’ve done, but the sins that have been done against us because He bore all our sins and griefs or grievances on the cross.

It’s difficult to withhold forgiveness when you realize that God in His great love has forgiven each of us.

STEP 2: From this place of forgiveness – extend compassion in the same way that you’ve been given compassion.

•Pray until God gives you the grace to see them through His eyes. They are broken people in need of a Savior.

•Be honest before God about what they’ve done to you and how you feel. It’s not wrong to have feelings, it’s just wrong to allow those feelings to control our lives.

•Listen for God to speak His healing word to you for the offense that’s been done against you.

•Receive the healing word that God brings into your situation. Perhaps He will use you as a minister of reconciliation.

STEP 3: Release them from the need to satisfy your overwhelming desire for revenge – release them into the hands of God.

Vengeance is mine, says the Lord, I will repay. Deut. 32:35

•You may need to pray a prayer of release – I release you into the hands of God. God you deal with this situation.

•Sometimes you need to pray this prayer every waking minute until you fully release them.

STEP 4: Cancel the debt that they owe you

•This is the hardest step of forgiveness – to bear the burden of the debt and to release them from it.

•This is where we enter into the sufferings of Christ and we take on ourselves the suffering for sins that have been done against us.

• In doing this, we then take the pain and the grief of what has been done against us and we surrender it to the cross. We don’t try to understand it – who can ever understand the heart of a person who sins against another? It’s the result of wickedness. We simply surrender it to Christ and we allow Him to take it.

STEP 5: When you forgive – thoroughly forgive

•When Jesus says to forgive seventy times seven He isn’t saying forgive them 490 times a day and on the 491st time you’re off the hook.

•Seven is the number of completion – so when he says seventy times seven He is saying that our forgiveness is to be thorough and complete.

Even in our forgiveness we want to hold back a small part of the debt – just in case the person offends us again. Then we can say – see I told you so… I was right… I knew it all along… that guy will never change!!! Jesus already knew the depth of man’s wickedness when He said to forgive seventy times seven.

There may be someone that you need to forgive. Someone that you’ve held a grudge against. In the same manner that you’ve been forgiven, God commands you to forgive. Forgiveness is a choice and a lifestyle.

If you have a story of forgiveness and reconciliation, I’d love to hear it. Email me and let’s celebrate God’s love at work together.

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