BY KELSEY WU
Behind my sweet and smiling exterior lies a girl who loves the guy-wrongs-the-girl-and-the-girl-takes-sweet-revenge type of song. I’ll crank the volume up and sing along gleefully as the girl slashes the guy’s tires, poisons his black-eyed peas and dumps him in a lake, lies in wait with her shotgun, etc. (each of these are real country songs, by the way).
I am the girl who loves fully but can also hate with utter passion anyone who hurts my loved ones. And far too often, I am the girl who refuses to let go of anyone’s wrongs. Instead, I find myself looking for ways to inflict the same — or greater — amount of pain in return. Of all my sinful tendencies, I would argue that this is the worst.
I would also argue that this instinctive desire to punish others for their wrongs is something many of us struggle with, especially as we watch the rampant evil in this world and wonder how so many real-life villains escape from justice. As I’ve watched the news lately, my heart aches at the tragedies intentionally perpetrated on unsuspecting people by those whose wicked hearts seem to know no boundaries. I see cases of child abuse, sexual assault, shootings, intense bullying … So many other senseless wrongs done by people who, to my human mind, don’t seem to ever pay a steep enough price for their offenses. Some even seem to go their whole lives without paying the consequences for what they’ve done.
Since college — and now in the post-college world — I’ve sat and talked with many girls who have tried to stifle their tears as they recounted to me stories past sexual abuse. Each time it hurts me to the core, yet it also ignites in me a slow and burning anger. It seems that almost none of the men have paid the price for their despicable deeds. It seems that most of them continue walking about, unrepentant, undiscovered, and respected by society, when they have inflicted lifelong scars. When I think of this, I want to wreck their lives in the same way that they have wrecked the lives of their victims. I want to inflict insufferable pain in every way — physically, psychologically, spiritually ... “After all,” I think to myself, “they deserve it.”
And yet I am wrong, so very wrong, to think that I have the authority to exact my revenge on other sinful humans when my own sin is just as grievous in the face of a perfect Creator. The only thing that this quest for revenge does is harden my own heart against the beauty of Christ’s forgiveness. Scripture is clear; just as we have been forgiven by God, so we must forgive others. This is a theme echoed all throughout the New Testament, and in the Old Testament, as well. Psalm 37 says this: “Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil. For those who are evil will be destroyed, but those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land.” (8-9).
Scripture is clear; just as we have been forgiven by God,
so we must forgive others.
Jesus, during His ministry on earth, said this: “‘But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.’” (Luke 27-28, NIV). Romans 12:18 says that if it is at all possible, we should be at peace with all men [and women]. All throughout the Bible, we see mention of forgiveness, not as an option, but as a command. Jesus, hanging on the cross as an innocent man with every right to cry out at his wrongful crucifixion, prayed “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).
Where does this leave us? Certainly, just because we are commanded to forgive does not mean that we abandon the pursuit of truth and justice. By all means, I believe that people must be held accountable for their actions. But what about those individuals who go their whole lives without being caught? Where is the justice in that?
And then I remember: God is a righteous, just God who sees every bit of child abuse, murder, sexual assault. He is aware of every bit of domestic violence and thievery. He knows. One day those evil, unrepentant beings will come face to face with the one true God. And on that day, their earthly lies and temporary escapes from justice will be of no avail.
Psalm 7:11 reminds us that God is a righteous judge, while Hebrews 10:30-31 says this: “For we know him who said, ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ and again, ‘The Lord will judge his people.’ It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”
The Lord will repay; he will see that these people are brought to justice.
Those verses convict me in deep ways. They remind me that it is the Lord’s place to avenge — not mine. They remind me that the villains of this world cannot escape the Lord’s justice. And finally, these verses remind me of how utterly terrifying it will be to fall into the hands of the living God without the salvation of Christ. And you know what? This humbles me to pray. For therapist, for the thief, for the man/woman who abuses their spouse, for the adulterer … Because without the work of Jesus on the cross, I would be slated to face that very same judgment for my own sins. When my human desire for revenge overwhelms me yet again, I am reminded to seek God’s work in my heart so that, rather than punishing these evildoers and taking an “eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth”, I can one day look at them for what they are: sick, lost souls desperately in need of a Savior.
Dear kindred, if you are like me and thirst for revenge, remember your place and remember God’s ultimate justice. Find peace in that. When the Lord said that vengeance is His, that is exactly what He meant. Let it fall from your grip and give it back to Him.