Should We Seek Vengeance?
As the landscape of our country continues to recoil in the aftermath of protests and police brutality, I’ve noticed several people crying out. Some of the things I’ve heard frighten me. I’m not going to pretend to know what police should do. I’m not going to pretend to know how to move forward. Do I understand that people are persecuted and angry? Of course I do. Do I understand the desire for justice? Of course I do. But there are a few things that I contemplate as people discuss things.
We shouldn’t put our faith in man (Psalm 146:3). After all, it was man who led us to this point. It was Adam’s sin that brought the curse on mankind. It was men who formed our nation. It was men who formed the laws. It was mankind who passed on ignorance and racism to their children. It was men who killed all those for whom we currently cry out for justice. Man destroys and kills. Jesus, and only Jesus, saves.
I made it a point for the first chapter of this book to be plain about the nature of man, and it isn’t good. That’s not to say each person is himself or herself as evil as possible, but we are mortals of flesh with motivations borne of that flesh. People will pursue their desires, especially in such a time as this, where people are taught things like, “find what makes you happy,” or “live your truth,” or “you have a right to be happy.”
But what is the cost of happiness? How can truth, which is defined as that which is in accordance with fact or reality, be different for each person? If truth is only in accordance with reality and fact, than an individual can’t have a different truth unless he or she is in a different reality from another. We want truth to bend to our own perspective, but it is to truth we should submit our perspectives to. We should withhold our opinions until we have the truth. I’ve mentioned this a few times in previous works, depending on how you measure happiness, everyone can’t be happy.
I hear a lot of people talk about money. Everyone should be happy, so everyone should have money. Money is a limited resource. There’s only so much of it in the world. I don’t know that anyone has actually sat down and determined the amount of available money in America and then tried to divide that amount by the number of people 18 or older. Even if that number was more than what some currently make, it might be less than you currently have. I chuckle sometimes at people who say things like, “The super rich should give their money to the less fortunate.”
That would be a very kind and generous thing to do. Those who did so would pile treasure for themselves in Heaven, if they are among the redeemed (Matthew 6:19-20). But for those of us in the middle, who are scraping by and starting to see themselves growing prosperous, how willing are they to give? Do you give to every homeless person you pass? Do you give to everyone who asks? If you do, then I applaud your generosity. However, if you’re not giving everything you don’t need, and remember, we’ve already discussed what need is in the previous chapter, why do you expect others to give?
This might seem an accusatory chapter, but that only depends on your own conscience. If you’re of the opinion that you’re generous and helpful, then who am I to contradict you? But if you feel convicted, look at yourself and judge, because it is our own actions we should judge first.
Which leads me to the point of this chapter. I’m seeing a number of people crying out for justice, and you have that right, but I urge everyone to remember who justice belongs to.
“Vengeance is mine, and recompense for the time when their foot shall slip; for the day of their calamity is at hand, and their doom comes swiftly (Deuteronomy 32:35).”
“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 (Romans 12:19).’”
I’m not innocent of this. But I honestly see it so differently now than I did even a few years ago. I meant what I said in the last chapter. I’ve given Heaven and Hell a great deal of thought, and I don’t want anyone to go to Hell. That doesn’t mean I want to hang out with them or that I agree with everything they say, but I certainly don’t want them to go to eternal damnation.
Now a days, I pray far more for salvation of those who truly wrong me than I do vengeance or even justice. I do this for a few reasons. First, if everyone deserves justice, we’re all screwed. Justice would be all of us going to Hell for our sins. Justice would be everyone being punished.
Again, people may buck at this idea, but just please ask yourself, “Am I perfect? Have I never sinned? At all?”
The price of sin is death (Romans 6:23). It’s that simple. A just response to sin would be our execution. But God in his mercy and grace showed his love for us in that while we were sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:6-8).
If I want justice against my enemies, why do I deserve mercy? I posed that question to myself; I leave it to you to consider posing that same question to yourself.
But what do I know of true suffering? I’ve never faced racism or persecution. I’ve never been beaten by police or had my motives questioned just because of the color of my skin. I can’t have any clue what that’s like, and I certainly don’t know what it would be to endure that in some way for more than 200 years. But I can’t make mankind love one another. All I can do is love the people around me the way I want to be loved.
I can also pray for justice in those circumstances.
However, it is in these times where we most desire vengeance that we must cling most strongly to the Word that tells us it is not ours to pay. I can pray that God brings justice, and I do. I pray even more firmly that people turn from their ways to Christ. I pray they honor the triune God who created man in Their own likeness, after their own image (Genesis 1:27). People who hold onto that truth can’t hate another man based on anything as fickle as skin color or nationality.
We should report crimes we see. We should watch out for our fellow man. We should spend time together and support one another.
Vengeance of wrongdoing can make one feel justified, but better that they wouldn’t be wronged in the first place.
I struggle with pride and frustration. I battle these temptations so much I understand Paul’s thorn (2 Corinthians 12:7-10). If I’ve made any progress in this, it was that I’ve learned how love can change a person. In a world where we seek justice and brotherly love, we can only attain such through Christ. Man has failed us time and time again.
I saw a few memes through the weeks where people talk about Martin Luther King, Jr. They say something to the effect that he protested peacefully, and people still murdered him. That saint suffered the same fate of our savior, who did nothing but preach love and fear of the Lord, and even after being declared innocent, the people cried out for his crucifixion. If mankind would kill the Son of God, what man, no matter how wonderful, stands a chance?
The fault lies in the heart of humanity. But like all evil, God used even that crucifixion for good, for it is by that crucifixion that Christ paid the price for our sins. As for justice? God showed Christ as the one perfect man by raising Him from the dead and placing Him at his right hand. And there, Christ intercedes for us (Romans 8:34).
My hope and desire is that people seek love, peace, truth, patience, and kindness. My hope is that people hold on to the truth that justice eventually comes to all. I’m not saying I don’t understand those who have had enough. I just urge people to stay above those who are wrong. Remain better than those who’ve harmed others. Keep yourself holy even if others are unholy around you or mistreat you. You do this to glorify God. You do this the remain innocent in a world of hate and selfishness. Where anger, pride, and hate have led men to murder, theft, and destruction, let love, peace, and mercy lead you to holiness, righteousness, and joy.
For our panel: How can a people so long persecuted find any sort of peace? How can those same people maintain faith that justice will come? How do those who would see their black brothers and sisters receive justice and mercy help? How does a citizen support justice without taking it into his or her own hands? What ways can we demonstrate love and support for humanity?