We are building a strategy that will enable us to love those we cannot stand.
- Step #1: Bless instead of curse
- When I think of my enemy and am tempted to review their faults or what they have done to hurt me, I substitute prayer for them as my response to the temptation.
- When tempted to speak badly I say nothing. This is difficult, sometimes you begin by saying less than you would like to and work your way down to zero.
- Step #2: Walk a mile in their shoes
- Instead of concentrating on what they have done, try focusing on the why. Instead of relating in great detail to others why you do not like them, what they have done to you to make you dislike them; try relating why you think they act the way they do. Understanding brings sympathy and leads to forgiveness. Forgiving the other may not change them, but it does change you and helps you live with them and with God in peace.
In this session we will review the third step in our strategy.
Never Take Revenge
In Romans 12:17a, 19, Paul says quite emphatically that we are not to take revenge.
17Never pay back evil for evil to anyone.19Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, "Vengeance is Mine, I will repay," says the Lord.
- Romans 12:17a, 19
Note that each of these verses begins with the word "never." There is no misunderstanding here, we are never to take revenge or justice into our own hands. This is a different concept for us in the West because so many of our movies and books are based on heroes who do this very thing. Cowboys hunting down killers, macho men/women who take the law into their own hands and "take care of business." We idolize movie stars who play these roles. But it is contrary to God's view and commands. The Bible says that we are never to take vengeance, never become the judge, jury and executioner (self-appointed).
This is not to say vengeance is bad:
- Vengeance (the desire to see justice and punishment accomplished) is not bad, it is simply not our job. This task belongs exclusively to God. You can hope and pray for it and work to promote it, but you cannot appoint yourself as the enforcer. For example, it is one thing to march in order to protest abortion, this is acceptable behavior before God and the Law. However, actually bombing an abortion clinic is both forbidden by God and the Law of society.
- Not taking vengeance does not mean passivity. Just because we do not punish or take revenge does not mean we do nothing. Aggressive good, prayer for justice, active forgiveness, these are our tasks. Not taking revenge is a way of expressing our faith. In doing this we are saying that we believe God's word and trust in Him to execute justice in His good time.
Just like the return of Jesus, justice seems slow in coming at times but it will be perfect and cause us to rejoice when it arrives.
Why Let God Judge?
All of this is easy to say, but so very hard to do when faced with someone who is getting away with offending or hurting us or the ones we love. We should never take revenge and leave the justice and punishment to the Lord. Why?
Vengeance is not in our jurisdiction
God could have given us this right just as He gave us the right to manage and exploit the creation, but He did not. He maintains this right for Himself alone.
The person may repent
Your judgment, your punishment might interfere with someone coming to the Lord. For example, Jeffrey Dahmer, the mass murderer, was murdered himself in jail by another prisoner according to the "prison code" where child molesters and the like are eliminated by other inmates. Thankfully a member of the church had sent him a Bible correspondence course which he took and eventually led him to repentance and baptism several months before someone else decided to take matters into their own hands. You do not know God's plans and should not interfere.
You will be judged yourself
The Bible says "never." So when you make an exception to this rule you break God's command. It is ironic that those who set themselves up as judge and executioner automatically bring down judgment on themselves.
The Old Testament story of David and Saul is a wonderful example of this refusal to take revenge into one's own hands. Time after time Saul attacked David, spoke against him, sought to execute him, but David responded with kindness, patience, even refused to harm the king when he had perfect opportunities. David understood that in dealing with an enemy it was best to leave the matter of revenge in God's hands, no matter what the provocation. He knew that in doing this there would be perfect justice, he would receive no guilt for himself, and if there would be a chance for change, God would bring it about.
- In your own personal conflicts, why do you want revenge? Open discussion.
- Have you ever taken revenge? What happened? How did you feel? What results? Open discussion.
- What are some ways that we take revenge in church? Open discussion.
- Have you ever had a "Saul" in your life? If so, how could you have been more like David when attacked? Open discussion.