Give God Your Revenge
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)
Why is this such a crucial promise in overcoming our bent toward bitterness and revenge? The reason is that this promise answers to one of the most powerful impulses behind anger — an impulse that is not entirely wrong.
I can illustrate with an experience I had during my seminary days. I was in a small group for couples that began to relate at a fairly deep personal level. One evening we were discussing forgiveness and anger. One of the young wives said that she could not and would not forgive her mother for something she had done to her as a young girl.
We talked about some of the biblical commands and warnings concerning an unforgiving spirit.
- Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. (Ephesians 4:32)
- “If you do not forgive others . . . neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matthew 6:15)
But she would not budge. I warned her that her very soul was in danger if she kept on with such an attitude of unforgiving bitterness. But she was adamant that she would not forgive her mother.
The grace of God’s judgment is promised to us here in Romans 12 as a means of helping us overcome a spirit of revenge and bitterness.
Paul’s argument is that we should not take vengeance, because vengeance belongs to the Lord. And to motivate us to lay down our vengeful desires he gives us a promise — which we now know is a promise of future grace — “‘I will repay,’ says the Lord.”
The promise that frees us from an unforgiving, bitter, vengeful spirit is the promise that God will settle our accounts. He will do it more justly and more thoroughly than we ever could. Therefore we can back off and leave room for God to work.