If this is one of those preaching to the choir moments, then I guess I’m over here singing baritone. God hit me with this for my own conviction and it’s a very simple point. As is often the case with biblical principals, it is logically very simple, and yet often times, incredibly difficult to achieve when life manifests it into a real decision you have to make.
Have you ever been sitting there with a figurative knife lodged in your back as mental pain sends your brain into an all-out frenzy of thoughts on what you should do about it? Maybe in a split-second your reality changed because a best friend became a liar, or a spouse became a cheater. Maybe the knife is there from a fellow church member who failed to follow Christ in their fellowship with you. Whatever the case may be, we seem to have a hell-bent natural instinct for revenge.
Billions of dollars have been made selling humans a countless number of stories featuring revenge. Ever heard of a little known super hero named Batman? The entire premise is revenge for the murder of his parents. In the name of revenge, we watched Russell Crowe become a gladiator and take on the entire empire of Rome. Denzel Washington is my favorite actor; ever seen Man on Fire? He goes on a tear of violent vengeance, including one particularly interesting scene where we hear him say forgiveness is between his enemies and the Lord, but it’s his job to…
I love that line, but I struggle mightily with it biblically because I don’t perceive his actions as this:
19 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.”
Does it get any clearer than that? And look, these are over-the-top examples, but I’m not talking about self-defense in violent cinematic situations. I’m talking about something happened and now your mouth is watering at the chance of revenge. It really doesn’t even matter how big or small the offense or need of forgiveness is, the spiritual implications of how you handle situations like this are monumental. We develop patterns in our thought processes that will mold the way we handle situations over and over again. If you don’t handle this according to God’s will, you are going to poison your spirit, and every one of you reading this already knows it. Consider your own personal situation with this dilemma. Search your heart and ask yourself, “Is there anything I can do to that person that will actually satisfy and replace the pain they caused me?”
In a book I’m reading, I learned that some ancient cultures often viewed adultery as worse than murdering someone. They considered that when you murdered someone their pain was over, but the betrayal of a loved one leaves pain that lasts a lifetime. They wanted to understand the consequences before figuring out the punishment. You see, for as long as sin has existed, humans have royally sucked at administering justice. We desperately grasp to find punishments to fit the crimes, and none of them really do. It’s why you watch countless courtroom videos where despite the fact that the murderer of a loved one just got the death penalty, the family is still bawling their eyes out in anguish. I’m in no way calling for an end of the justice system, but simply noting the limitations we don’t acknowledge enough.
Sin has eternal consequences, and only eternal punishment fits the crime. So really, who do we think we are? What sort of idolatrous notion tells us that what we can achieve ultimate justice, when God Himself said the requirement was His wrath? How mad are you, and are you foolish enough to suppose it compares to the wrath of God? Get out of His way
This entire article is built on a cliché idea of letting go and forgiving someone. You’ve heard that more times than you can remember. But look around, despite the fact that this is so true it has become a cliché thought, people all around us are walking around harboring bitter grudges. Perhaps you’re one of them, and you know what you’re doing to yourself. Take account of the negativity invading your day because of it. An honest evaluation should leave you desperate to get rid of that burden.
So do it, because truthfully, you don’t have what it takes to punish someone’s sin, nor should you want it. Leave it to the wrath of God.