By Norman H. Patterson Jr.
Recently, I had the opportunity to hurt someone that has caused me unspeakable pain. I had them. Now I could show the world their hypocrisy, lack of sound judgment, and cruelty. I have to be honest; I really struggled with this. After all, why should I let this person off the hook? Am I not justified in showing them and everyone else how wrong they are?
My last two blog posts were about forgiveness because I've had to work through, yet again, the necessity of forgiving as God in Christ forgave me. Not seeking revenge is part of this forgiveness.
There are various degrees of revenge. The mildest are subtle passive-aggressive and microaggressions that leave room for deniability. Call us on it, and we can skirt our way around it and explain it away by gaslighting our accuser. Hollywood movies glorify the most visible forms of revenge. It's so satisfying to watch quiet homemakers or loving fathers torture their enemies.
And yet, God tells us that we do not have the right to seek revenge. Only He does
Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord. Romans 12:19
In fact, God commands us to go one step further
Why does He not let us seek revenge?
1. Our perspective is limited
Our brains are limited to the confines of our skull. Our eyes pretty much look forward and can't see behind us. Our ears become useless at low decibels. There is so much we miss even using all our senses. Besides, how we perceive events is influenced by our beliefs, upbringing, nationality, gender, and so many other factors.
Compare that with what God knows. He sees everything and has a perfect understanding of everything and everybody. We have different perspectives, but God knows the truth.
2. We don't know all the facts
I've always been fascinated by courtroom drama. Just when we are convinced who the killer is, a piece of evidence surfaces that changes everything. There are always facts that we don't know.
3. None of us is 100% right
We like to think we are totally right, but that is a lie. Any person who thinks they have all the answers is fooling themselves.
4. We don't know the other person's heart
Only God knows the heart. It is healthy to humble ourselves and realize we don't honestly know or understand the motives of another human being.
5. Only God can give perfect justice
Besides everything listed above, our desire for revenge clouds our ability to pronounce a just sentence upon our malefactors.
6. The desire for revenge only hurts the avenger
Science has shown that resentment, hate, anger, and all negative emotions hurt those who carry them. As Malachy McCourt once said, “Resentment is like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die."
7. God’s Sovereign Plan
God has an ultimate plan. Somehow, in someway, God is going to take the mess we’ve created and use it for our good and His glory. We don’t know how the difficult things that happen to us fit into His eternal decree, but we know He is able to bring about exactly what He intends even out of human sin.
8. The Counter-Intuitive Solution
The gospel is the only means to change the world. Change won't come at the barrel of a gun, a courtroom, whether a democratic or republican is in office, or whether we get our way or not. The only power that will change this world is through the Cross of Jesus Christ. It is through blessing our enemies, forgiving others, letting go of hatred, and leaving vengeance in the hands of God.