Do not say, “I will do to him as he has done to me; I will pay the man back for what he has done.”
Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.
(Romans 12:19 NIV)
In chapter 22 we looked at the importance of forgiving others. A failure to forgive tends to result in a desire for revenge. It seems to me that seeking revenge is the opposite of forgiveness.
Consider a larger section of Romans 12:
Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:17-21 NIV)
Taking revenge also involves a failure to love others. When the command to “love your neighbor as yourself” was first given, it was associated with not seeking revenge:
“You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.” (Leviticus 19:18)
Peter also raises this issue of taking revenge:
Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. (1Peter 3:9)
It is somewhat intriguing that God appears to reserve judgment and revenge for himself:
“It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. (Romans 12:19 NIV)
Perhaps that is because God is the only one whose knowledge is sufficient to rightly judge and repay people. Our own judgments about others tend to be warped by our own selfishness and ignorance.
Jesus gives us a challenging example of forgiveness rather than vengeance:
And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:33-34)
What about you? What was your response the last time someone wronged you? Vengeance or forgiveness?
For Further Reflection
Judges 15:1-20: Samson’s revenge.
Proverbs 20:22: Do not say, “I will repay evil.”
Matthew 5:38-48: Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.
Acts 7:59-60: Stephen’s prayer.
2Thessalonians 1:6-10: God is just: He will pay back…
2Timothy 4:14: The Lord will repay...
1John 1:9: If we confess our sins…
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