Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
As time draws us closer to the return of Christ, many of us are experiencing the uneasiness that comes from seals being broken and God’s Spirit being removed from this Earth. Violence abounds and hatred consumes, daring to touch even the people and ideologies closest to our hearts. Eventually, darkness touches us. It always does because we live in a world of sin. Anger, frustration, and disappointment are normal responses, but they are also dangerous. Left unchecked, they create fertile ground for more destructive emotions, including wrath, depression, and envy. In turn, we search for ways to rid ourselves of this darkness so that we can find peace.
To do this, we are left with two options. We can choose light, or we can choose more darkness. Sometimes, however, we struggle to tell the difference. I think of this conflict when we speak of vengeance, juxtaposed with justice. They do exist on the same continuum, born from the same desire to want wrong made right. Yet we know that vengeance belongs to God. In this world, we can seek justice, but the ultimate judgement belongs with the divine. If we forego this truth, and act on our own accord, we begin to succumb to the darkness that wants to consume us.
This means we no longer just want wrong to be made right. Instead, we want someone(s) to feel the pain we’ve endured, until we’ve said it’s enough. We want to be their judge and their jury, as our desire for their suffering becomes unsatiable. No result will ever be enough to pay for what they have done. Over time, hatred makes a home in our hearts, as self-control is lost. There is a reason why God said vengeance is Mine. He knew the price we’d have to pay to obtain it, and the recklessness by which we might apply it.
A Short Bible Study on Romans 12:19-21
If we take a look at Romans 12:19-21 (NKJV), we gain some valuable insight on vengeance. We read:
Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. Therefore
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
If he is thirsty, give him a drink;
For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.”
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
What does it mean to “give place to wrath”?
When I examined this passage, I was a bit confused by the phrase: “rather give place to wrath”. I wasn’t sure if the scripture was advising us to trade out vengeance for wrath. So, I took a step back and delved into what it means “to give place to”. I realized that the scripture was telling us to find replacements for wrath that come from a place of good. So as an example, if your enemy is hungry, you should feed him. It’s not that your enemy is no longer your enemy, it’s just that you now have choices as to how you treat your enemy.
What we decide has the power to change the course of our trajectory, and maybe theirs too, because there is power in God’s light. He gives us the foundation for how to choose His love, but when we’re in pain, we run the risk that darkness becomes more attractive. Such a temptation is why we are warned to not be overcome by evil.
In the short-term, choosing darkness may seem easy, but living with that darkness is the harder long-term choice. It comes with no true satisfaction. Any perceived joy will be short-lived as we search for new highs. Our desires become distractions as our lights grow dim. Our health, well-being, peace, and ability to connect with God are all negatively impacted. Evil takes us prisoner while we call upon a God who we claim does not answer. It’s not that God isn’t hearing us during these times, it’s just that we no longer know how to listen. We’ve blocked His voice by claiming something for ourselves that belongs to Him. Vengeance is God’s, and God’s alone, and when we act upon what belongs to God, there is always a price to be paid.
God as the caretaker of vengeance.
Throughout the scriptures, God reminds us of His ownership of vengeance. Here are a few references: Deuteronomy 32:34 starts with “Vengeance is Mine, and recompense”. In Psalm 94:1, we read “O Lord God, to whom vengeance belongs.” In the New Testament, Hebrews 10:30 states: “For we know Him who said, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. And again, “The LORD will judge His people.” And in our passage found in Romans 12, we read: for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.
God’s repetition is a signal for us to take heed. He’s saying – I know you’re going to struggle with this idea, so I’m going to keep reminding you of its importance. I know that we want to hold people accountable, particularly when we’ve been hurt, but so does God. He even tells us, He will repay. It’s just a question of – are you willing to let God be in control of what that looks like, or do you think that you know best? Unfortunately, when we choose the latter, we become so focused on the other person or situation, that we lose sight of the defilement happening in our own hearts.
We are warned in Hebrews 12:14-15 to: Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled. God is reminding us that the only way to not walk in darkness, is to walk in light. We don’t have to worry about vengeance; He’s got that part covered. By doing that, He’s giving us the gift of peace, and the freedom to let go of the anger, frustration, and disappointment that festers in our hearts. We don’t have to become defiled by pain; trusting in God, is still our best option.
In closing, I’d like for us to read James 2:13, which says: For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment. God is the final judge. He has the final say – which is why vengeance belongs to Him. Nevertheless, He warns us that how we treat others impacts the way in which we will be treated. So, do we want to focus on retribution, or do we want to focus on mercy? What is it that we want God to apply to us? It’s mercy.
And I know that mercy isn’t always our first choice, but that doesn’t mean it can’t become our best choice. I’m thankful for every time that God has given me His mercy, and I recognize that it’s an honor to be able to bestow that same mercy onto others. It’s a gift, not only for them, but for me. It clears out the defilement and the bitterness and allows me to move forward, knowing that whatever happens next – God is in control. Mercy triumphs, and for that, may we all be grateful that vengeance is God’s.
God Bless, and see you next week with #lovesanaction.Print This Post