“Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written: ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.'” Romans 12:19
Have you ever had someone hurt you so much that all you could think about was seeking vengeance?
Maybe it was a damaging word that cut deep to your heart, a broken promise, a spouse’s affair, or a rejection. Any time someone hurts or offends us, our initial reaction is to pay them back. Get even. Hurt them like they hurt us. It’s only fair, right?
God says just the opposite.
In this passage in Romans, Paul is speaking to the people of Rome about the marks of a true Christian. In the verse above, Paul is actually quoting the Old Testament from Deuteronomy 32:35 (NIRV): “I punish people. I will pay them back. The time will come when their feet will slip. Their day of trouble is near. Very soon they will be destroyed.” This passage is part of the song of Moses, which he sings near the end of his time here on earth. Moses and Paul are both telling us that God is the one who judges. He is the one who punishes those for the wrongs they do. It is not our job to craft a cunning revenge plot so we can make sure that the person who hurt us gets paid back. It’s God’s job.
I have been reading the book of First Samuel these past few weeks (part of my reading that goes along with the First 5 app). There are two chapters in this book where David was ready for vengeance. For most of First Samuel, King Saul is in hot pursuit of David because he does not like him. David has been anointed the next king of Israel and Saul is super jealous! He wants David killed, but David goes on the run in order to remain alive. In First Samuel 24, Saul enters a cave where David and his men are hiding. It was dark so Saul could not see them hidden. David’s men urged him to kill him. It’s only the right thing to do since Saul was trying to kill him. So David gets close enough to Saul, but instead of killing him, he cuts off a part of his cloak. Right after he does that David feels guilty. He knew the moment he cut Saul’s cloak that he should not have done that. It wasn’t his right to seek revenge on the man who wanted him dead. No, it was God’s job. And David knew that God would pay Saul back for what he was doing to David. That moment wasn’t the right time. David just had to trust and wait for God.
The second time David was ready to seek vengeance was against a man named Nabal (1 Samuel 25). Nabal refused to feed David and his men after they had done him the favor of protecting his shepherds and their flocks. David was filled with rage and was ready to kill…all because Nabal refused to give him food. Crazy, right? Starvation can make you want to do some outrageous things! But God sent a sweet woman named Abigail, Nabal’s wife, to talk him out of killing Nabal. Because of her words, David backed down, kept his cool, and did not kill Nabal. David was reminded, through Abigail, that it was not his place to seek revenge. It was God’s job. He had to trust and wait for God.
I love how God uses all of Scripture to teach us, to show us how He helped others, and how He reminded them of His promises. Vengeance is not ours. No matter what someone has done to you, don’t pay them back evil for evil. In Romans 12, Paul goes on to tell us what we should do when we want to seek revenge: “If your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:20-21).
Your first reaction to this passage is probably a loud, “What? I’m not being nice to my enemies!” But I pray that you will heed these words and let God be the one to seek vengeance. He promises that those who do harm to you will be punished. If you have a hard time believing this promise, just read His Word. He shows us all throughout that He does follow through with this promise.
“Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”
Prayer: Just and Holy God, thank You for the promise of vengeance. Restrain us from the times when all we want to do is cause harm to someone who has hurt us. Remind us of Your promise of vengeance and help us to love our enemies and be kind to them, even when we don’t want to. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
- What has someone done to hurt you? What did you do in that situation?
- How can you show love to your enemies?