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.