Note: the “Call to Prayer” which is the last entry before this one is from a friend who has worked among Muslims. This is their prayer and sometimes it’s interesting for us to see.
One of the unsettling things about being a pastor is that what you preach has an eerie way of coming back to bite you.
This morning I saw some great stuff about revenge when I was reading Romans 12. “That will make a good Coffee Stain,” I thought. Then … don’t you just hate words like “then”? … Then, I got the mail and there was a threat from a French internet provider menacing terrible things that would happen to me if I didn’t pay up.
Thing was, I had paid up. Several times over! I had canceled the service when I came back to the States for a time but they kept taking the monthly payment out of my French account. I tried one phone call and three letters and thought it was finally finished (after I felt I had lost about $200 dollars in the process).
Now they were threatening me that if I didn’t pay some more, bad things were going to happen.
And I got mad. “I’m going to sue them for harassment! I’m going to write a letter to a newspaper editor! I’m going to call the Better Business Bureau (does that exist in France?)” ! A good mad does more for your blood pressure than three cups of coffee.
Then I got to thinking. “What was that you studied about getting revenge for yourself this morning?”
Let’s see, I had written…
“When you take revenge, you keep God from acting and you put yourself in God’s place (Romans 12:19). We would be horrified if someone accused us of stealing God’s glory. But how many of us have stolen God’s place by taking vengeance ourselves?
“Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”” (Romains 12:19-21)
“He’s the One who has the right to do it, not me, I continued in my notes. When I get revenge, I put myself up as judge of another person. In reality I don’t know that person’s heart. And I also set myself up as executioner when I strike back at others. But I’m not perfect enough to punish another person, because I’m capable myself of hurting someone else, either unintentionally or intentionally.”
Maybe I won’t write a letter to the editor.
Revenge seems to be part of our DNA. When I was a child, if my little sister ran by and hit me, I would have chased her to the ends of the earth to get her back.
But life gets more serious than collector’s letters and little sisters—he leaves her for someone younger and she spends ten years nursing anger and hatred, brooding about how to pay him back. Only, she suffers as much as anyone because the rage for revenge takes a terrible toll on her life and who she is. The only one she’s punishing is herself and those around her.
Life is full of things that make us want to get even. Some young couples fight constantly because neither one is mature enough just to be quiet and not try to have the last word.
So how do we deal with these situations? Do we roll over like a whipped puppy and say, “Kick me again!”
According to Paul we give up our “right” to take vengeance and let God do it. “Leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay.” If that man really needs sorting out, God knows exactly how to do it. Move out of the way and let Him!
So what do I do? Treat him kindly. Serve him when you have the opportunity. “If your enemy is hungry, feed him.” What? Hang on, you’re in the process of “overcoming evil with good.”
When you take revenge you have to exact as much pain in the other person as he inflicted in you to even things up. SO YOU’VE BECOME JUST LIKE THEM! You’ve become that monster that you accused them of being because you’ve evened up the accounts.
If we refuse to allow someone to turn us into something we’re not, we’ll continue to love and serve, even when our emotions cry for, “Sweet revenge!” We move out of the way and let God deal with that person.
We’re not a doormat because we do what must be done in each case, but not with a spirit of revenge. I don’t want nasty people to make me like them.
The Lord Jesus knows exactly how to deal with each one of us and He’ll do it if we let Him.