So, as believers we trust that the enemy is not getting away with injustice. At the same time, some would have you believe that in the end we all hold hands and sing ‘Kum Ba Yah’, as we make holy ‘Smores. They make you feel bad for considering the wrath of God being held for sinners, especially those who have mistreated His anointed. But throughout the Bible, and even several times in the New Testament we find references to this very thought.
The early church was very unlike our current Western Church community. Many of the Christians were at constant odds with their culture to the point of great persecution. This was discouraging and distressing. Sometimes they must have thought that God had forgotten or forsaken them. I’m sure some of them wondered if they were sacrificing in vain.
At one point, the apostle Paul who was one of the great Christian leaders in the world at the time, and had himself experienced a great deal of persecution, wrote to one church and said…
“We must always thank God for you, brothers. This is right, since your faith is flourishing and the love each one of you has for one another is increasing. Therefore, we ourselves boast about you among God’s churches—about your endurance and faith in all the persecutions and afflictions you endure. It is a clear evidence of God’s righteous judgment that you will be counted worthy of God’s kingdom, for which you also are suffering, since it is righteous for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you and to reward with rest you who are afflicted, along with us. This will take place at the revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven with His powerful angels, taking vengeance with flaming fire on those who don’t know God and on those who don’t obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction from the Lord’s presence and from His glorious strength in that day when He comes to be glorified by His saints and to be admired by all those who have believed, because our testimony among you was believed. And in view of this, we always pray for you that our God will consider you worthy of His calling, and will, by His power, fulfill every desire for goodness and the work of faith, so that the name of our Lord Jesus will be glorified by you, and you by Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Thessalonians 1:3-12)
Notice that he says, “It is righteous for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you… taking vengeance with flaming fire on those who don’t know God, and those who don’t obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.” That may sound like a strange phrase to be found in a letter written in the age of Grace. But it really shouldn’t surprise us. God loves everyone. We know that. But He has a special relationship with those who are in His family. And just because God loves people who do wrong does not mean that He will let their evil go unpunished. That wouldn’t be right… and He is Right.
Notice that He will take vengeance on those who mistreat those who are worthy. If you think that God is going to wage war on your enemies just because you said a prayer at a youth camp 20 years ago and have lived like the Devil since… you don’t understand the system. Remember, He is just. He doesn’t play games, and He knows those who are His. So part of this is living lives that reflect His work in our lives. If you have been redeemed and restored, live the life of one who has been redeemed and restored, not the life of someone who hopes that in the end God will have pity on you regardless of your lifestyle.
But if you are in the family of God by the mercy and grace of God, and if you are being mistreated by others, know that God is keeping score. Your pain and sacrifice is being noticed. God will not allow your enemies to forever dance on your grave. He collects your tears. You don’t have to keep a record of their wrongs. Keep on loving them. They need your mercy and grace, because if the people who abuse you don’t receive Christ, this world is the best they will know.
The early Christians did not live by this idea of vengeance. In fact, it was not unusual for them to pray that God would not hold the sins of their enemies against them. And we should be the same way. God doesn’t need our help keeping score. Our enemies need our help in diminishing their wrong-doings. This kind of grace only comes through the power of Christ’s Spirit living in us. Remember, He is the One who on the cross said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”
Today you will have the opportunity to do God’s job of keeping score, or your job of loving your enemies. You really aren’t qualified to do God’s job. So do your job. Dish out love to those who mistreat you, and let Him do whatever He is going to do. If you do your job well enough, you may win you’re your enemy, and their scorecard may meet the same fate yours did.
[Bible quotes are from the Holman Christian Standard Bible, unless otherwise noted.]
Find more of David’s work at Heart Of Ministry.