Jump Start # 2060
Romans 12:19 “Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, ’Vengeance is Mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”
Settling the score. Getting even. Treating others as you have been treated. Those thoughts run wild today. An injustice takes place and people take to the streets to not just protest, but to loot, burn and become violent.
Our passage today from Romans establishes some divine principles that God wants His people to live by.
First, we are to never be guilty of evil ourselves. Twice in this section Paul specifically states that. He says, “Never pay back evil for evil to anyone.” Then, he closes this section with, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” The disciple of the Lord will not threaten with evil nor use evil as a tool to repay what has been done to him.
Second, as our verse states, never take your own revenge. You are not the judge, jury and the executioner. A person never repays equally. Hurting another never takes away your own pain. Revenge is fuel by anger and hatred, the very characteristics that lack God.
Some see this as allowing people to walk over you and take advantage of you. But in saying this, they miss the context and the point Paul is making. These words are mirrors of what Jesus said in the sermon on the mount about resisting evil.
Third, there are two avenues of justice that the Christian must step aside and allow to take place. First, as these words flow into chapter 13, is allowing the government to do what it is supposed to do. The government serves as God’s minister. It bears the sword against evil doers. Bearing the sword, that is an act of capital punishment. You don’t spank someone with a sword. It is an instrument designed to kill. The government carries the sword. God allows a government to make laws and then to enforce them.
The other avenue is God. Leave room for the wrath of God. Some have not left any room. They have taken things that belong to God. It is God’s right to repay. Vengeance belongs to God and not with us. In God’s way and in God’s time, He will deal with evil. Nothing will get past God. Evil will not sneak into Heaven. God will not be fooled.
Fourth, behind all of these words, is the thought that some Christians were going to be hurt and injured. You don’t seek revenge upon an innocent person. Revenge, by it’s very nature means to return what was done to you. So, implied in all of this is that Christians would be hurt. Earlier in the chapter Paul said, “Bless those who persecute you; bless and curse not.”
The Christian who was hurt was not to seek his own revenge. He was not to turn to evil to settle the score. He was to allow God to repay. These words are difficult for us. We want God to protect us. We want a divine umbrella over us to keep all evil away from us. But that wasn’t going to happen. The Lord talked about persecution. Peter talked about persecution. Paul talked about it. Their words are never about escaping it, nor, how to avoid it. But rather, our response to it.
Fifth, it will appear, at least for a while, that evil is triumphant. The Christian has been hurt. Evil gets away with it. Rather than a fight, the Christian has left room for the wrath of God. The Christian blesses those and prays for those who persecute. The Christian doesn’t raise his hand in resistance. He doesn’t turn to evil. He doesn’t seek his own revenge. For a while, evil laughs and smiles. Evil seems to be the victor. Evil seems untouched. But God notices. God sees what was done to His people. A day will come, may not even on this side of life, but it will come, and God will repay. The vengeance of God is nothing close to what we could do. God is just, fair and merciful. But the history of God’s wrath is sprinkled throughout the Bible. A world wide flood. The earth opening up and swallowing people. Banishment from Paradise. Inflicted with worms. Sudden death. The loss of sanity. And, of course, the ultimate punishment, Hell.
Sixth, the Christian may never witness justice in his lifetime here. Evil may mock, abuse and laugh his way throughout life thinking that he is untouchable. The Christian must not only be patient, but put these matters into the hands of God. The Lord will make it right. The Lord will do what is right. This is hard on our perspective. We want to see swift justice. When we don’t, the feeling on our part is to get involved in the revenge business. Stay out of it. It belongs to God.
Why these words? Why are they in our Bibles? Why these reminders today? Because we live in a dark world. More and more people are opposed to Christ. We are to be different from the world. Different in our direction. Different in our character. Different in our attitude. And, different in our response to pain, injustices, and unfairness. Evil often pushes our buttons. They want us to act “unchristian.” These words remind us where we need to stand.
God knows what’s going on. God is there for us. God will make things right in time, His time. Onward we must go, realizing that someday, all these things will be just a memory of the past. These problems do not transcend into Heaven.