Don’t destroy yourself by taking revenge!
It is very tempting to get even when people wrong us. Some people have experienced the most horrendous wrong and injustices. Life can be so unfair with somethings never being resolved in our lifetime.
The word for revenge used in the New Testament literally means, ‘(that which proceeds) out of justice.’ It must be pointed out that so often human vengeance proceeds from a sense of injury or indignation which is not necessarily the same as justice.
God has clearly told us not to take revenge. He has done this on the understanding that vengeance belongs to Him and that He is going to right every wrong.
19 Don’t seek revenge yourselves, beloved, but give place to God’s wrath. For it is written, “Vengeance belongs to me; I will repay, says the Lord.” (Romans 12:19)
Why should we leave revenge to God?
- If we demand justice for the wrongs done against us it is only reasonable that others can demand justice for the wrongs we have done. We are like the proverbial man throwing stones whilst living in a glasshouse. We need to show mercy if we expect to receive mercy.
- The act of exacting vengeance is not good for us physically, mentally, emotionally or spiritually. If someone grabs a wire carrying 30,000 volts of electricity it will kill them. They are not made to handle high voltage currents. We are not made to handle revenge.
- Justice upon the earth is the God-given remit of rulers and the justice systems that have been set up. These are better able to judge impartially and should be motivated to administer punishment for the well-being of all 1(Romans 13:3) 3 For rulers are not a terror to the good work, but to the evil. Do you desire to have no fear of the authority? Do that which is good, and you will have praise from the authority, .
- God will exact a much thorough payment for the wrong that has been done against us than we could take for ourselves.
The sad cautionary tale of Ahithophel
Ahithophel was an amazing strategist who became advisor and counsellor to King David. He was so good at this that the Bible tells us that taking advice from him was like enquiring at the oracle of God. Life was good for Ahithophel who lived well and had a lovely family. One of his grandchildren had recently married one of David’s elite soldiers.
All this changed when one day when David saw Ahithophel’s granddaughter and committed adultery with her. She was called Bathsheba and she became pregnant. In trying to hush things up David instructed her husband to come back from the battle that was being fought and spend the night at home with his wife. Uriah her husband would not do this out of loyalty to the other soldiers who were sleeping in the fields and risking their lives for the king. In desperation David arranged for Uriah to be killed on the battlefield and married Bathsheba.
God was very displeased with David but David genuinely was heartbroken over what he had done and begged God for mercy and forgiveness. God forgave David but Ahithophel did not. How could he take revenge against this king and the monstrously wrong things he had done?
For a long time, the desire for revenge ate away at Ahithophel. Eventually he saw his opportunity. He joined forces with one of David’s sons Absalom with the intent of killing the king. Absalom took counsel from Ahithophel. Foolishly Absalom did not act on the counsel that Ahithophel gave. Such was this advisors ability he realised that Absalom was not going to succeed.
Ahithophel went home put his domestic affairs in order and then committed suicide. His quest for vengeance totally destroyed him (2 Samuel 15-17).
23 When Ahithophel saw that his counsel was not followed, he saddled his donkey, arose, and went home to his city, set his house in order, and hanged himself; and he died, and was buried in the tomb of his father.(2 Samuel 17:23)
The happy story of Joseph
Joseph at the age of seventeen was sent by his father to look into the welfare of his brothers who were minding the family sheep. They were jealous of him and after imprisoning him in a dry well shaft sold him as a slave to some passing merchants.
Joseph endured thirteen years of slavery, false accusation and imprisonment until God turned the situation around. He ended up as prime minister of Egypt. One day a group of hungry travellers stood before Joseph requesting permission to buy food in Egypt because there was a severe famine in the whole area.
Joseph realised that these were the very brothers who had so wronged him. Here was a chance to exact a terrible revenge against them! Joseph did not take revenge rather he forgave his brothers. He placed them in a situation where they had to confront the wrong they had done and chose differently.
When Joseph had seen that his brothers could be trusted to behave differently he made himself known to them. The whole family moved down to Egypt and lived with Joseph. How different this story could have been if Joseph had chosen to take revenge because of the evil done to him (Genesis 37-50).
14 He fell on his brother Benjamin’s neck and wept, and Benjamin wept on his neck. 15 He kissed all his brothers, and wept on them. After that his brothers talked with him. (Genesis 45:14-15)
We have all experienced wrong from others. We have a choice to make. Do we save our lives by not seeking revenge or do we destroy ourselves in thinking that somehow revenge is sweet? Revenge is not sweet it is bitter.
- Can you think of times when people have wronged or hurt you?
- Have you ever exacted revenge on someone?
- How did this work for you?