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"Vengeance is Mine"

A Biblical Ethic on Responding to Evil

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  (cf. Deuteronomy 32:35.)

In today’s world we don’t have to look far to find someone who wants to exact revenge for a perceived wrong. The verse above is from Romans 12 in the New Testament as quoted from Deuteronomy 32 in the Old Testament. It's God’s response to those looking for revenge, but what does it mean? What God is saying to us is radically counter-cultural, especially in some places where revenge is the status quo: “Revenge belongs to me; not to you. It is not within the actions allotted to you to try to take revenge. That is my job; not yours.”

Jesus goes on to instruct us in the Sermon on the Mount just how to treat our enemies – by turning the other cheek: You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth’. But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. – Matthew 5: 38-42 NIV

This instruction not to resist evil is an instruction to individuals. It does not mean that a government should not maintain law and order, or maintain an army to defend its citizens. It does not mean that individuals should not join our nation’s army to defend our country. [1] However, in personal dealings, we should respond to evil by not resisting and in fact, doing good in return.

And in Matthew 5:44, we are told to love our enemies and to pray for them. How much better would it be, if, instead of hurting someone who has hurt us, we can forgive them?  How much better, if, we could turn our enemies into our friends? How much better, if, we could be peacemakers?

If that person refuses to be reconciled with us, then it is within God’s domain to deal with them. So often, we do not acknowledge God’s authority, and in so doing, take it upon ourselves to mete out revenge, which was never our role in the first place. This is, for a Christian, the meaning of Lordship: to accept God’s authority over us and obey God’s will. When we do that, then we can truly say that He is our Lord.

  • 1 August 2016
  • Author: Guest Blogger
  • Number of views: 1866
  • Comments: 0
Categories: Theology
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