Vengeance~ a rather scary word, isn't it? According to Marriam-Webester, it is defined, "punishment inflicted in retaliation for an injury or offense." Prime synonyms include revenge, retribution, requital, payback. The first verse that comes to my mind is God's absolute monopoly on the subject: "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, saith The Lord." (Rom 12:19) Clearly, revenge is not supposed to play any role in the life of Christians. But does it?
Recently, I have been preparing a few lessons for the ladies class at church, which I will be giving come December. As I thought over everything I've learned at Bible college - and beyond- the past year, this was a subject that crossed my mind, and I wanted to share.
Romeo and Juliet. Yupp, that's pretty much my ultimate idea of revenge personified in history. Suicide, the most extreme retribution in response to a lost love. I suppose next up would be Joseph's brothers throwing him in a pit, plotting his murder, and then up and selling him into eternal slavery - all in turn for jealous sibling rivalry. The examples are plethoric and infinite. Much blood has been shed, lives forever altered, and history written, in the service of revenge.
Vengeance isn't such a far progression away from the old, familiar experience of anger. According to the study "Anger and the Christian," by Dr. V. Jett, it is merely the third step in a natural, downard progression of unresolved anger - a quick successor to bitterness and resentment. Any injurous assault (whether actual or perceived), gives birth to anger. Left unresolved, bitterness takes root, followed by resentment, and the natural response is to act upon these feelings: to retaliate.
Cain may have lured his brother in the fields to a viscious, violent death - but just because revenge is a consequence of sin seen from the very beginning of the world, does not mean it has any play in MY story, right? Well, we would all assume so.... but I found otherwise.
Just what is revenge, anyways?
Not necessarily the extreme, violent act of hatred that is so often portrayed. When Satan works vengeance into our life, like so many other traps of sin, he applies it in small, seemingly-harmless doses. It was quite a shock, much like a dose of cold water, when I came to terms with how widely Satan had infiltrated my thoughts and life with vengeance.
And I realized, that in all honesty, revenge is merely any action I take without prayer. When someone has hurt me, made me mad, annoyed me, insulted or disappointed or upset or wronged me? I instantly make some kind of decision on how I will respond. And I have come to realize, that unless that FIRST RESPONSE is to pray, and ask God to help me make a right decision, than I have strolled heedlessly into the natural, ancient path of revenge. My problem, taken care of my way.
Have you ever seen how deeply our life is permeated with miniscule, destructive acts of vengeance? When someone gets upset, they --- fill in the blank, and there's the revenge.
I won't talk to them for a while. I won't answer the next time they call. I'm not going to smile at them. I'm going to ignore them. I'm going to yell back. I'm going to delete them off Facebook! I'm going to frown and cross my arms. I'm going to....
Hey, why aren't you going to church anymore?
Oh, the preacher upset me...
Hey, why aren't you talking with him anymore?
I'm mad at him right now...
Hey, what's with the attitude today?
Someone pushed my buttons...
I'm not sure that my examples will relate to the temptations that face my friends and readers, but, I wanted to share, and I hope that the thought comes through. =)
The next time a situation presents us with anger, be sure not to jump to revenge. Before we make a decision, take a minute to pray!
"Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and PRAY for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you." Matt. 5:44