Rom 12:19-21 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.” (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.” (21) Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
We know that it is right to desire justice. To pray that the Lord will take vengeance upon the wicked. He Himself tells us that He will repay. The Psalms are filled with imprecations asking the Lord to bring the just due of their sins upon those who hate Him and hate His people.
But we are given a serious warning in the Scripture above – we must never take vengeance ourselves. Revenge is to be left to the Lord’s wrath, not ours. Why? Because if we are not careful, evil will overcome us and we will find ourselves doing evil ourselves.
Let me explain further.
Over the years I have known people who have suffered greatly at the hands of evil, wicked, abusive oppressors. No doubt about it. They really were targets of devilish abuse. However, these victims I am speaking of here made a turn down a wrong path. They chose the path of vindictiveness. Of vengefulness. You can see and hear it in them. They have been wronged and they are set upon getting even.
I am not talking about people who simply take their case to court, testify against the criminals who victimized them, and seek justice in that manner. No, I mean victims who just keep right on using every opportunity they can to see that their abuser pays. Such people have been overcome with evil. And I can tell you, they become mean and cruel themselves. Furthermore, they get themselves locked into a state of anger and bitterness toward God.
I heard a line in a movie recently that resonated with me: “Vengeance will not change the past.” When we seek revenge ourselves, we are acting as if we think that if just enough blood is squeezed out of the person who wronged us, the past will be changed. That somehow the evil done to us will be balanced out and vaporize if we can just do a proportionate amount of vengeance back at the oppressor. But it never will. Vengeance will not change the past.
Vengeance belongs to the Lord. A vindictive, hateful, revenge-seeking spirit is not a beautiful thing. It is ugly. It is not of Christ. Instead of going down that path, we are to love our enemies and pray for them. In most cases they will remain our enemies because they will not repent. This is not a naive mindset. But it leaves final justice and vengeance to God, who in fact is the only One who really can handle revenge.
And there is something else I think Christ can do. We see it here:
Rev 21:4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
See it? The former things will have passed away. God’s vengeance can and will, in fact, change the past. The former things will pass away. Whatever that means, it surely means that any trace of even the memory of evil will be gone forever. There is NO way we can pull that off ourselves by taking revenge on those who have wronged us. But Christ can. And He will.
And let me close here with one more important word of wisdom. It is very good to learn about evil. About abuse. About its tactics and its motives. We are to be wise about these things. But we are also to be innocent of any taint of evil in ourselves. We learn about the devil and his schemes, BUT we must spend far more time learning about Christ and knowing Him more and more. If a victim of abuse keeps treading water by focusing on the abuse itself, what has been done to him/her, so that time in God’s Word, in prayer, in working out our salvation, goes wanting – there will be an increasing emptiness of soul and a growing distance from Christ and His sure promises.
Every week we post two livestream videos on Facebook, Youtube, and Sermon Audio of in depth Bible studies. One on the Gospel of John and the other on Revelation. Every Lord’s Day we provide a Sunday morning message from Scripture and a worship service sermon on the same media venues. It is in this kind of focus upon God’s Word that our real victory is going to come.
Could it be that some of you might need to change gears a bit, exercise faith in Christ, and do this:
Heb 12:2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Yes Pastor Jeff, vengence is a heart motive. It will eat you up if allowed to fester. It is a wonderful thing to know that Jesus will make everthing right. Also, for those who are victims, when you go to the courts to seek protection for you and your babies the evil one will twist your motive and accuse you for being unforgiving and vengeful. Expect this. Press into Jesus. Lean on Him. Get into His word. Find good supportive fellowship.
You are very right Wade, it is gut wrenching when you see the court becomes a battle against the deceit and lies all over again for the one seeking safety……. who commonly cannot afford equitable legal counsel. So often it’s a game to the abuser, who will align to satan yet again, and attempt to use their attorney to pulverize you in their charade of unthinkable twists.
Thank you Pastor Crippen for the reminder of the Lord’s promise. He has us covered – that knowledge alone is a place to rest in assurance. He remains – as he always has, and he will address the justice that is so often not seen while here.
Thanks, Pastor Crippen, I needed to hear that!
I agree with you about leaving vengeance for the Lord but that seeking safety and justice is okay.
I’m writing with a question about Psalm 41. Verse 10 in the ESV says, “But you, O Lord, be gracious to me, and raise me up, that I may repay them!” And in the CEB version: “But you, Lord, please have mercy on me and lift me up so I can pay them back!”
This confuses me as to why David thought it was okay to ask God to help him to pay his enemies back himself. Do you have any insight on this? Thanks.
Becky – That is a good question. Thank you for noting that verse. Here are my thoughts. 1) David was God’s appointed king and as such would have authority to “pay back” these enemies who opposed him and tried to destroy him, thus opposing and working to destroy God’s kingdom. 2) But also, and perhaps primarily, these verses:
Psa 41:9-10 Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me. (10) But you, O LORD, be gracious to me, and raise me up, that I may repay them!
…are cited (at least vs 9 is) in the New Testament as being a prophecy of Christ being betrayed by Judas:
Joh 13:18 I am not speaking of all of you; I know whom I have chosen. But the Scripture will be fulfilled, ‘He who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.’
Christ was raised up from the dead and ascended as King to heaven from where He will come one day and repay His enemies in judgment.
How does this apply to us? The New Testament says that we will rule with Christ, that we will judge angels. And so I think that it is on that Day when Christ comes in judgment that WE will have been raised up from the dead and we will participate in Christ’s judgment against the wicked.
I’ve been thinking similar lately (about spending too much time focused on abuse and lacking in focusing on Jesus) and really needed to hear this.
Since abusers are children of the father of lies- the enemy wants to use them to kill, steal and destroy our peace and joy in Christ. There is great victory in not letting the abuser dominate our thoughts. Praising God and focusing on His Word makes the enemy powerless over us. Being able to sing praise songs is a mighty weapon in the battle to overcome the darkness.
Thank you. This very thing has been pressing on my heart. 💛
You’re welcome Courtney. It is a vital subject for all of us.
It Still Hurts
What’s the difference between revenge and the satisfaction that comes from successfully warning others about a verified, habitual abuser? Theoretically, I warn others because I wish someone had done it for me, and because to date the authorities have been egregiously ineffective. Other victims and I tried the latter, repeatedly and with multiple enforcement agencies. I’ll admit there’s a euphoric rush from warning a potential new victim who was about to become ensnared. Is that coming from a place of revenge?
I sometimes wonder when I will feel satisfied: when 50, 100, 250 steer clear? There’s always a fresh, new victim coming down the stairs and not everyone heeds the warning. I’ve given up on this abuser changing and/or getting meaningfully prosecuted, so when does the my theoretical “duty” to warn others expire?
Only you can know your motives. Our hearts can be deceptive. There is nothing wrong with wanting to warn but I have found that most people are not going to listen to warnings. I recommend , and just my opinion, that you let go of the burden you have taken on and leave others to learn for themselves.
It Still Hurts
Thank you. You’ve helped me a lot with this. As I’m sure you know, some abusers are good at infiltrating new groups who don’t yet know about them. Then when people do hear a little about the abuser’s past, they get his spin on it. It’s so tempting for a past victim to shout, “No, this is how it happened!”
I’d already started to relax on this for the past six months, and I’m going to let go more now. Even if new people don’t find out about the abuser as quickly as they did with my previous vigilance, I definitely laid enough permanent breadcrumbs that they should find out the truth within a couple of months. Which is much better than it was a few years ago when I started this time-consuming, draining effort. I know my efforts did “save” some people who were grateful for it, so that leaves it in a good place.
Thank you again.