What does God say about revenge?
The Bible is a beautiful tapestry, with many threads woven through it, one of those threads being God's desire for us to live together peacefully.
Merriam-Webster defines “revenge” as: “to avenge (oneself or another) usually by retaliating in kind or degree.” Isn't revenge an example of returning evil for evil? What does God say about returning evil for evil? 1 Thes 5:15, “See that none render evil for evil unto any man; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men.” God asks us to love even those who curse us and hate us, Matt 5:38-44, “Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away. Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;” He asks us to do this, so the evildoer can witness an example of the correct way to treat each other, 1 Pet 2:12, "Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation." Returning evil for evil only intensifies problems. Those who refuse to learn this lesson will not experience the joy of God’s reward, Prov 25:21-22, “If thine enemy be hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he be thirsty, give him water to drink: For thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head, and the Lord shall reward thee.” The reward for our obedience is a relationship with God, and those evildoers will feel the heat from the fire of guilt they have created, which will haunt them when they see good being returned for the evil they are doing.
Rom 12:17-19, “Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.” God asks us to leave vengeance to Him, Deut 32:35, “To me belongeth vengeance and recompence; their foot shall slide in due time: for the day of their calamity is at hand, and the things that shall come upon them make haste.” Have we not witnessed evildoers falling in due time, like Saddam Hussein, Osama Bin Laden, Hitler, and countless others? Seeing this truth play out requires patience. God is the only one patient enough to give everyone the time they need to accept the reality of His love, and He has told us what our response should be to those who refuse His love, 1 Sam 24:12, “The Lord judge between me and thee, and the Lord avenge me of thee: but mine hand shall not be upon thee.”
Only God has the authority to punish. He does, however, delegate some of that authority, in this life, to those He allows to rule, 1 Pet 2:13-14, “Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well.” He does this because He knows many of us will not follow the path marked by His love, so He establishes rulers to protect us from those willing to harm us. This world's history is replete with examples of man's inhumanity, so we need laws to protect us and they need to be enforced. If a ruler becomes evil and puts our lives in danger, God leads or allows His people to flee. God told Abram to flee, Gen 12:1, “Now the Lord had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will shew thee”; Moses mother saved him from Pharaoh’s edict, Ex 1:22-2:5, “And Pharaoh charged all his people, saying, Every son that is born ye shall cast into the river, and every daughter ye shall save alive. And there went a man of the house of Levi, and took to wife a daughter of Levi. And the woman conceived, and bare a son: and when she saw him that he was a goodly child, she hid him three months. And when she could not longer hide him, she took for him an ark of bulrushes, and daubed it with slime and with pitch, and put the child therein; and she laid it in the flags by the river's brink. And his sister stood afar off, to wit what would be done to him. And the daughter of Pharaoh came down to wash herself at the river; and her maidens walked along by the river's side; and when she saw the ark among the flags, she sent her maid to fetch it.”; years later, Moses was led by God to take Israel out of Egypt, against the will of Pharaoh, Ex 5:2, “And Pharaoh said, Who is the Lord, that I should obey his voice to let Israel go? I know not the Lord, neither will I let Israel go”; David fled from Saul, 1 Sam 19:12, “So Michal let David down through a window: and he went, and fled, and escaped.”; God sent an angel to tell Jesus’ father to flee into Egypt, Matt 2:13, “And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him.” Hitler was one of those evil rulers, and I believe Jesus led people to America to form a country that would be there to help free this world from Hitler's tyranny. God's way is freedom, He wants each of us to use the liberty He has given us to accept Jesus as our savior and lead others unto the same path. Any ruler who denies people their freedom will eventually lose their power. This is one of God's ways of freeing His people.
God uses rulers to complete His plan for salvation, and even their evil acts can provide a path that leads through the valley of death to a good result, Gen 50:20, “But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.” God has turned the horrible atrocities of ISIS into a great rethinking in the Muslim community and a wave of former Muslims to Christianity. You can read about it in an article entitled “ISIS CAUSES IRAQIS TO TURN TO CHRIST AT A ‘STUNNING PACE’" written on October 10, 2014, by the News Staff of BCN, Breaking Christian News; it is posted on their site.
God’s motives alone are pure, and the creation of His eternal family is His prime directive. Knowing this, He still found a way to allow each of us to decide our own eternal future. He gave us His Word, and those who choose to ignore it will have decided their own fate, Jn 8:43, 47, “Why do ye not understand my speech? even because ye cannot hear my word…He that is of God heareth God's words: ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God.” He gives us a lifetime to hear and understand it, Ps 145:8, “The Lord is gracious, and full of compassion; slow to anger, and of great mercy.” And, He is showing great patience despite our prayers for revenge, Rev 6:10, “And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?”
God calls us to faith, not vengeance, Heb 11:7, “By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith” and He wants us to accept His offer of eternal life, Rev 2:11, “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death.” Noah withstood criticism and mocking, but He stayed the course. Some have not grasped the immensity of the eternity God is offering us. There is a song, Amazing Grace, whose last stanza is: "When we've been there ten thousand years, bright shining as the sun, we’ve no less days to sing God's praise, than when we've first begun." Are we getting this? After 10,000 years, there are still an infinite number of days left, no fewer days left. What could we put on the balances to outweigh eternity? How would revenge for any wrong ever cause the balances to even shudder?
Forgiveness is the way of our Lord, and it leads us away from revenge toward His love and His peace, Lk 6:37, “Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven:” When we return evil for evil, how are we any better than the evildoer? God is calling all of us, as He did Saul, Acts 4:9, “And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?” God tells us, vengeance is nothing more than our persecuting Jesus and proof we have refused to follow His way. We could ask when we persecuted Jesus. However, He already answered that question, Matt 25:44-45, "Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me." Anytime we return evil for evil, we are persecuting Jesus, the one who died on a cross so that we might have the opportunity to shine His light by returning good for the evil we experience, even to the least of these.
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