Listen: Chris Witts presents Morning Devotions.
Have you ever wanted to take revenge out on someone who deliberately hurt you? If we are honest, we all probably have felt like that.
It’s a difficult topic—revenge. It can be very ugly and destructive, and we don’t often talk about it.
Webster‘s online dictionary defines revenge as to avenge (as oneself) usually by retaliating in kind or degree or to inflict injury in return for something, such as to revenge an insult. Someone said, “Revenge is like grabbing a hot coal to throw it at someone else, but you are the one that gets burned.” But people keep doing it anyway. They keep hoping that this time it will finally pay off, and they will be vindicated. That almost never happens.
Desire for Revenge Is Ancient
- “You did it to me. It is only fair that I do it back to you!”
- “I am doing this to teach you a lesson!”
- “You need to be punished for what you did, and It is my responsibility to make sure you get punished.”
- “I cannot let you get away with this.”
“An eye for eye only ends up making the whole world blind.” Mahatma Gandhi
The struggle with revenge is centuries old. Shakespeare said, “If you prick us do we not bleed? If you tickle us do we not laugh? If you poison us do we not die? And if you wrong us shall we not revenge?” Shakespeare clearly thought revenge was as normal and predictable as the sun rising.
Revenge seems to be one of the deepest instincts we have. Who hasn’t said, I hope he gets this—he deserves what’s coming? It was Mahatma Gandhi who said, “An eye for eye only ends up making the whole world blind.” I think he was a very wise man.
From Rage to Forgiveness
You may recall the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. Bud Welch fought his rage and desire for retribution when his daughter Julie was killed along with 167 other people. Welch had opposed the death penalty before his daughter was killed, but he reversed his stance as he tried to cope with his loss in the weeks following the bombing. “People used to tell me, particularly when Julie hit her teenage years, that ‘Bud, you’d change your mind [about the death penalty] if your daughter was murdered,’ ” Welch said. “After the bombing, I was so full of revenge and retribution, I didn’t even want a trial for [Oklahoma City bombers] McVeigh and [Terry] Nichols”.
He owned a service station in Oklahoma City at the time. He was so grief-stricken and had such a hard time dealing with his loss that he would go home and drink to try to get himself to fall asleep. His drinking gradually increased.
One day, about 10 months after Julie’s death, Welch went to the bomb site—which he routinely visited because that was the last place where his daughter was alive—and began to examine himself and search for a way to get past his grief. He found that he was being consumed by the same rage and thirst for revenge that had driven McVeigh and Nichols to blow up the Murrah Federal Building where his daughter ws killed.
“I finally asked myself three questions: Do I need to have a trial right away? Do I need to have a conviction? Do I need to have McVeigh and Nichols executed?” Welch said. “I came to the conclusion that none of those things needed to be part of the healing process I had to go through to get past this and stop the alcohol abuse and stop smoking three packs of cigarettes a day.”
“It was out of rage and retribution that Julie and so many fine people are dead today,” Welch said. “After I began to realize what drove McVeigh and Nichols, I realized that I didn’t want to let my rage and revenge get out of control like it did with them.”
It Is God’s Business
It’s been proven that taking out revenge doesn’t make you feel better in the long run. The psychologists say this. There must be a better way surely.
Leviticus 19:18 (NIV) in the Old Testament says, “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people but love your neighbour as yourself. I am the LORD.” and Romans 12:19 (CEV) says, “Dear Friends, don’t try to get even. Let God take revenge.”
Vengeance is the business of the Almighty who will repay injustice. If God doesn’t do it now, he will do it later. God will also repay evil rulers of society who abuse their authority, fail to bring justice or punish the innocent.
Trust God to work it out, and he will, one day, in his own time.
It’s not our business to seek revenge or get payback. Leave it alone. Trust God to work it out, and he will, one day, in his own time. Don’t waste your time on revenge. Those who hurt you will eventually face their own hurt. When St Stephen, the first martyr, was being stoned to death, Paul stood by, and heard Stephen say, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” (Acts 7:60) Paul became one of the greatest saints in the Bible. If Stephen’s last words had been a cry for vengeance or a torrent of abuse at Paul, would Paul ever have been converted to Christianity?
So remember: we should never seek revenge for anything, not because vengeance is evil, but because our God is a God who demands justice and vengeance are his.