Romans 12:19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.
Have you ever noted the perverse delight we experience when we are able to get even with someone who’s done us wrong? And have you noticed how we can be preoccupied or even consumed by negative thoughts of someone who’s wronged us when they seem to get away with it? I call that negative meditation. I think it’s accurate to say that none of this is redemptive.
Getting even! Tit-for-tat! Giving them what they deserve! In some cultures of the world such thoughts and values lead to the shedding of blood and the taking of lives. Some of our Christian brothers and sisters face this each day because they have rejected the faith of their culture and became Christian. Our problem isn’t that we want to kill someone, but it’s more in the idea of successfully “doing unto them as they did to us” – but in an appropriate way.
The fruit of such thoughts and actions are deadly and forbidden. Today’s verse tells us don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do. “I’ll do the judging,” says God. “I’ll take care of it.” This is like the Lord saying to us, “Don’t play in the minefield!” Jesus taught us, “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 7:12) This truth applies – always. It means we act and respond to all circumstances and provocations in a way consistent with God’s word. But in the heat of a moment or in the stinging aftermath of being hurt how do we get there?
I find that the priceless key for me is forgiveness. It is the escape hatch from this path of revenge and getting even. Forgiveness is a decision of our will and is not dependent upon our feelings. It is like cracking open an egg. Once done, it’s done! We cannot undue it. Then we seek the Lord’s help in dealing with our anger, bitterness, frustration, etc… Think of Jesus forgiving from the cross. Think of Stephen forgiving while he is being stoned to death. Think of glorifying God when we are negatively treated. Remember that Jesus taught us to, “Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you.” (Luke 6:38)
The Bible teaches that a man will reap what he sows. That principle is true for everyone. When someone sows unrighteousness, the Lord wants us to recognize that He is the one in charge of determining what they reap – and when. When unrighteousness happens to us, let our prayer be for God to grant repentance and mercy to the one doing it.