Revenge God's Way


“Hi Jim. What’s up? You look angry.”
“I’m furious. A guy at school threw my bag into the swimming pool today, and I’m trying to work out a way to get him back.”
“Oh dear, I’m sorry to hear about that. That’s a terrible thing to happen and must be really frustrating. I can understand your desire for revenge. But before you go and knock this guy’s block off, would you mind if we looked at a passage from the Bible together?”
“I guess we could.”
“Excellent. Hang on, I’ll just find it… Here we go, Romans 12:17-21. How about you read it for us?”
“Ok. Romans 12:17-21. 'Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honourable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord." To the contrary, "if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head." Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”'
“Thanks. This passage has been written for people like you who are victims of the evil of others. God wants to help you respond in a way that pleases Him. You know, don’t you Jim, that being victimised doesn’t excuse you from your responsibility to glorify God in whatever you do?”
“Yeah, I know.”
“Let’s just think about this passage for a few moments. Do you notice that this passage gives three alternatives to taking personal revenge? What’s the first alternative?”
“Is it in verse 17? ‘Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honourable in the sight of all.’”
“That’s right. The first alternative to taking revenge, or repaying evil for evil, is giving thought to doing what is honourable (or good) in the sight of all. You’ve been sitting here giving a lot of thought to repaying this guy’s evil with evil of your own. How much thought have you given to doing the honourable and good thing in response?”
“I guess I haven’t really been thinking about the honourable or good thing at all. But this just doesn’t seem fair. If I don’t repay this guy, he’ll just get away with it. How is that fair?”
“Who said he will get away with it? Look at the second alternative to taking revenge, in verse 19. What does it say?”
“Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”
“Ok Jim, so what does this say we should do instead of avenging ourselves?”
“It says we are to leave vengeance to God to take care of.”
“Good Jim. Why does God want us to leave vengeance to Him?”
“Well, God says here that vengeance is His.”
“That’s right. Vengeance is God’s prerogative. Do you see that when we try to take our own revenge, we’re putting ourselves in God’s place? We’re assuming for ourselves God’s right. That’s not a good thing is it?”
“No, not really. I never thought about it that way before.”
“And Jim, what does this passage say about the certainty of God’s vengeance?”
“God promises that He will repay.”
“That’s right Jim. God guarantees that justice will be done. That’s as certain as God’s word, and I don’t know anything more certain than that. It may not be immediate or in the way we expect, but justice will be done. So you see then that this guy isn’t going to get away with it, even if you focus on doing the honourable and good thing in response. The question is, Jim, will you trust God to establish justice, and so leave vengeance to Him?”
“I think I’m going to have to pray for God’s help in doing that. So that’s it then? God wants me to just walk away and leave vengeance to Him?”
“Well, that’s half of it. We are to leave vengeance to God, but we aren’t simply to walk away. Look at the third alternative in verse 20.”
“Ok, verse 20 ‘To the contrary, "if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head."’ What? You mean God expects me to do good to this guy? After what he did?”
“That’s right. Jesus commands us to love our enemies, just like God loves His enemies. Instead of looking out for opportunities to do evil against this guy, God wants you to look out for opportunities to do him good. You could start by praying for him. Jesus said, “bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.””
“Wow, I’m really going to have to seek God’s help on this one. The last thing I feel like doing right now is doing good to this guy.”
“Yes, you do that Jim. God will give you the grace you need to be able to obey Him. But before we close the Bible, take note of the last verse Jim. It’s really important and shows the spiritual danger you’re in as you wrestle with vengeance. Can you read it for us?”
“Sure. Verse 21 ‘Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.’”
“The reality is, we either overcome evil with good or we ourselves will be overcome by evil. Do you hear in that the warning of spiritual danger? Jim, the evil that has happened to you is bad. But that isn’t the worst thing for you in this situation. You see, this evil situation has launched you into a battle against evil desires in your heart, and if you’re not careful, you’ll be overcome by evil and sin against God.”
“Ok, I see the danger I face now. This situation’s not just about me and this guy. It’s also about me and God. Taking vengeance myself might make me feel a little better, but it’ll drive me apart from God.”
“That’s right. And I don’t think you want that. But look at the alternative. Through leaving vengeance to God and doing good to this guy, you can triumph over evil with good. This triumph is seen in your life when you respond to evil in a God pleasing way. But there’s more to it than that. Did you hear the part earlier that said by doing good to your enemy you heap burning coals on his head? This is a Jewish metaphor for repentance. God has ordained that one means of bringing an evil person to repentance is by repaying his evil with good. So you can triumph over evil with good.”





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