Annie B. Garman is a pastor’s wife and mother to four excitable girls, and author of Unexpected Grace: When Your Child is Born With Half a Heart. She and her family serve at Pillar Church in Northern Virginia where the traffic is thick, but the church planting opportunities abound. Their network of churches is attempting to plant a reproducible gospel-centered church at every Marine Corps base around the world (praetorianproject.org). This article originally appeared at NewChurches.com and is used with permission.
It happens almost everyday in our home. A scream indicating someone hurt someone. Maybe its because I have four daughters, or maybe it’s because we’re all broken sinners. Regardless, when someone gets hurt in our home, they usually want the perpetrator to experience similar hurt. Our flesh longs for retaliation.
When it comes to this issue of revenge, however, it’s not the dramatic that gets us; it’s the small and petty. Your husband says something with a tone, and you get hurt. You become cold and distant. A co-worker doesn’t follow through on something, and you are condescending with your words. We feel as though it’s our job to ensure justice is served, even though the Bible says the complete opposite.
Matthew 5:38-40 says
You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.
This is all a trust issue.
Lately, it’s this thought that has been transforming me. This issue of revenge all boils down to one thing: God sees. Do I believe it or not? Do I trust that the living God is actually in the room with me, witnessing the wrong that is being done to me? Do I trust in His goodness and His justice? Do I believe that He’ll do what He says He’ll do?
Romans 12:19 commands
Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.
Do I really trust that He will ensure justice and repay evil as it is deserved? We can leave divine retribution in His hands; it’s not our job.
Put off and put on.
It’s not good enough to just put off our sinful tendencies for revenge. We must learn to replace this urge to retaliate. In my experience, this has been one of the hardest things about the Christian life. It goes against everything in my flesh to obey the two little words forgive and bless. But this is a mantra worth repeating; life is a series of hurts and we’ve got to learn how to manage them.
Consider 1 Peter 3:9,
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.
And Romans 12:14,
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.
Don’t forget about Romans 12: 20-21:
If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink…Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
But…this is impossible!
You’re correct. That’s everything in the Christian life, though, isn’t it? We can’t expect to conjure up this kind of living on our own. Jesus has not left us without His Holy Spirit to empower us to live this way (Rom. 8:14). A depraved and confused world will look at this supernatural kind of living and be amazed. They will be pointed to Christ, our ultimate example.
Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. (1 Peter 2:21-23)