WHAT ABOUT VENGEANCE?
We lived in a trailer park in Colorado in 1976 with an old cowboy neighbor. Henry told me about a young resident who ran over his dog then backed the car up deliberately over the dog to finish him off. Henry was hurt by this evil action & even at 80 years of age knew how to get even. He hobbled to the culprit’s car at 2AM and rammed a potato up the tail pipe with a broomstick real tight. The next day the young guy’s car was mysteriously unable to run. And the next day the wrecking truck hauled it off, never to return. Trailer park diplomacy, poetic justice, or cowboy ingenuity? At any rate, I don’t recall Henry claiming to be a Christian or religious.
Vengeance or “getting even” is a serious problem of this world, sometimes with fatalities. And in the religious arena it is even more troublesome because God’s people are supposed to follow the example & teaching of Christ to “turn the other cheek” Matthew 5:39. Many proud people avoid Christianity because they don’t want to “turn the other cheek.” I heard one young believer say “I only have two cheeks . . .” (He didn’t stay long in the faith for other reasons also.) And apparently when our guard is down with no means of vengeance, we are more likely to suffer dishonor. Fallen human nature typically wants to know what it can get away with.
Now I am under no illusion as to how difficult this vengeance problem is. Especially as an American, where each man (& woman) is a microcosm of the U.S. with the same attitudes of pride & independence and self defense. (My own daughter was beat-up at school by another H.S. girl, and now is taking oriental martial arts classes.) I am also aware of how old this problem is. We see it in Genesis chapter 4, some 6-12 thousand years ago? Cain had killed his brother Able and God cursed him. Cain was worried that someone would take vengeance against him, but God said in v. 15 “not so – I will judge them seven times for that vengeance.” (my paraphrase) And there is an interesting case in Genesis 12:10-20 where God DID take vengeance against the king of Egypt because of an incident involving Abraham & Sarah.
How did Jesus Christ himself deal with the vengeance problem? On one occasion He was shunned along with his disciples. Luke 9:52 – 55 The disciples said, “Lord, do you want us to rain fire down . . . and consume them?” Jesus replied, “no – you don’t know what manner of spirit ye are of.” This event is VERY revealing. Then we have the rejection, torture and crucifixion scenes where Jesus on the cross said “Father, forgive them . . . they know not what they do.” This is sobering stuff – especially knowing that Christ is our EXAMPLE. If scripture has meaning, it does appear that God challenges us to forgive/pardon others and let Him repay. “Vengeance is mine, I will repay.” Romans 12:19 -- that thought is repeated other places Old and New Testaments, possibly to reveal the force of it. (I believe I could name at least 7 or 8 dead individuals who were taken out of this life early for their sin against others. But I don’t take pleasure in this knowledge, see Psalms 68:21)
Now if God reveals his presence to us by our seeking Him, then the problems of this Christian value system should not be as thorny – (my experience in a nutshell.) And I suspect God has put issues like "turning the other cheek" in front of EVERY soul as part of the challenge of living Christ-like. On one occasion the apostles had been arrested & beaten for preaching Jesus. They left the council “rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name.” Acts 5:41 That is the true Spirit of Christianity – NOT the story of cowboy Henry, or some of my own failures to be Christ-like . . .
On a positive note:
-- "Any man can seek revenge; it takes a king or prince to grant a pardon." A. J. Rehrat
-- "One pardons in the degree that one loves." Francois De La Rochefoucauld
-- "Good sense makes a man slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense." Solomon, Proverbs 19:11
-- "Though I walk in the midst of trouble, thou dost preserve my life; thou dost stretch out thy hand against the wrath of my enemies, and thy right hand delivers me. Psalms 138:7
Choose Jesus, and His value system, they are alive and offer a better future. For spiritual survival tips see Ephesians chapter six which deals with the armor of God.
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