Little is known or shared about Lamech and his legacy that none of us would want. Lamech was the great, great, great-grandson of Cain, and had two wives and at least a couple of sons of his own.
Lamech’s 15 minutes of fame does not reflect favorably upon him. We read in Genesis 4 (23-24) that he called both of his wives together for a family meeting. During this time, he confesses, perhaps even boasts, that he understands how revenge works. He says, “I have killed a man for wounding me, a young man for injuring me.”
In the little insight we have about Lamech, he enters into a principal that we have been living and laboring under since sin began. It is a law of revenge and rights. It goes something like this, “If someone offends, hurts, or inflicts pain upon us, we have the right to pay them back.” I don’t know about you, but my first response is to get defensive about my behavior and become aggressive in my response in my moments of anger and hurt. For thousands and thousands of years, we have lived under this law of Lamech.
But then Jesus shows up, and while turning the world upside down, introduces another way for us to respond when we have been wronged. Instead of seeking revenge, Jesus invites us to forgive. He changes the game rules and says, “Before God, you no longer have the right to fight back, because God had the right to fight back against your sin, but instead chose the way of forgiveness.” Because God has chosen to forgive us, we are obliged to forgive others because of our love for him. Jesus goes as far as to say that the level to which we can forgive others is the level to which God will forgive us.
Genuine forgiveness, Jesus says, is something that happens in our hearts (Matt 18:35). And according to Ken Sande, founder of Peacemakers Ministry, heart level forgiveness involves making four promises;
A Promise not to dwell on the incident A promise not to bring up this incident and use it against the offender. A promise that I will not talk about this incident A promise that I will not allow this incident to stand between us and hinder our relationship.
Tough stuff! Lemech established the law of revenge and retribution that is our default condition. Jesus established the radical notion of forgiveness.
Don’t follow the law of Lemech, pursue the invitation of forgiveness