One of the most difficult commands we as Christians are given in Scripture comes from Romans 12:19. It says:
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.”
Who among us in the course of our lives hasn’t wanted to take the application of justice into our own hands? Who hasn’t seen the movies where Charles Bronson or Clint Eastwood have been wronged, hunt down the perpetrators, and deliver what is due to evil men? If you’ve seen those films, which I suspect – like me – many of you have, hasn’t it given you a sense of satisfaction to see justice handed out before your eyes? Come on, don’t lie to yourself: you know it has.
The way of the world is different from the way that those of us who follow Christ are to think and act. God makes it clear that the world is not our home. The NLT says it most plainly in Hebrews 13:14:
For this world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come.
Why is this? Here’s what 1 Peter 2:11 (NASB) declares:
Beloved, I urge you as foreigners and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts, which wage war against the soul.
We as Christ-followers are to be and to act – to live – as aliens. Robert Heinlein many years ago wrote a book called Stranger In A Strange Land about a Martian who came to earth (https://www.amazon.com/dp/B000TO0TDK/). The protagonist was certainly not of this world, and his ways were different in many respects from the earthlings he encountered. The book became a cult classic among many in the younger generation in the 1960s. It fueled many hippie fantasies that I don’t recommend to us as Christians, but it does give us a useful, analogous contrast.
When we are wronged, the world says: Take justice into your own hands. Revenge your family and yourself. Do it, because no one else will. That’s an easy path to go down, isn’t it?
But, what does the Bible say? We’re not to take any reprisals against our enemies because vengeance belongs to the Lord.
That’s hard in our culture. We get worked up when we see injustices. If we belong to Christ, a righteous anger may rise up within us. Nobody else is doing anything. Certainly the authorities have become useless, if not complicit. We watch and see that God hasn’t done anything. Perhaps He missed the issue because He was looking the other way, dealing with a problem elsewhere. Maybe I better help Him out.
That’s the fleshly response we have. And again, don’t tell me it’s only me who feels that. Not buying it! It’s simply too easy to go with how the world sees things and to take care of our problems through our own initiative.
In our current time, there are more issues to confront and wrongs to right than we can possibly handle. With all these things going on around us, e.g. the indoctrination of our children in schools, the unmitigated disaster that is accruing through the dangerous border policies of the Biden Regime, the whole COVID thing with the poisonous injections labeled as life-saving vaccines, and so much more. Where does the list end? Do we jump into one issue and try to make a difference? Do we try to engage in them all? Where do we even begin? How does our involvement measure up to what Jesus said that we are to occupy until He returns? It’s a very confusing time.
Because of that, the Bible must be our one and only guide. Are there those upon whom we want to heap our indignation? It’s easy, especially in this day of social media. But, what does Paul go on to say in Romans 12:20?
To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.”
Paul, do you mean we have to be nice to those FaceBook jerks? That seems to be the instruction.
Why does the apostle say that in his command from the Lord? I think the last verse in this passage helps us to understand. Romans 12:21 says:
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
If we engage with the world by giving evil for evil, are we any better than those around us who are unbelievers? What have we demonstrated about our faith? Is there anything about it that marks us as different? If not, perhaps we’ve been overcome by the evil that our intentions had been to destroy.
What does God want from us? Scripture tells us that it’s to walk in righteousness. Whose righteousness? Ours or God’s? If it’s the righteousness that comes only from Him, then we must do as He commands. Above all, we must pray. Let’s allow God’s will to be done – not ours.