Revenge Is Not Justice
Do you have a keen sense of justice? Do you like to see wrongs made right? That can be a very good trait. We need to care about injustice, and we should do what we can to make sure victims are defended, and not just run over by the greedy and violent. We live in a time when there are many social justice groups working to tip the scales back in favor of those who have been taken advantage of.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with seeking justice. In fact, in Scripture we find that God places a high value on making sure right prevails and those who do wrong toward others are held accountable. God is upset when the poor are oppressed, the weak are trampled, the widows are neglected, and the orphans are forgotten. There are times when these get Him fired up and He messes some things up in order to make His point.
In fact, one of the passages that inspires many Christians to work hard for the down-trodden was written by the prophet Micah. “What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness,
And to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8) God wants us to do what is right, do what is kind, and do these things in a humble spirit before God.
You see, Christians aren’t God’s avengers on this planet… we are God’s ambassadors. We should live in a way that exhibits what life is like in the kingdom of Heaven. We are to do the right thing, and we are not supposed to participate in evil. We are vessels of justice… not injustice. But we are not to be people who are seeking our pound of flesh. Revenge is not a spiritual gift. Vengeance is not our calling. This is very tricky. Because we aren’t to be silent as injustice happens, but neither are we to try and get everything back to equal. The Gospel is not about making things even, but making Jesus known through our words and actions.
In the end Christ will make everything new. That is restoration. We aren’t here to settle scores, redistribute wealth, or even make sure the wicked pay. That is His job. We are to seek justice… not exact it. We are to speak truth and live right. Look at what the apostle Paul tells the Christians living in an unjust culture in the first century…
“Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord. ‘But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:17-21)
That is some powerful stuff. Notice that Paul did not deny that injustice exists. He didn’t say that we wouldn’t get the short end of the stick sometimes. He states that we will in fact have enemies. But the Christian is not here to make evil people pay for the wrongs they commit. If you have been unfairly treated, I’m sorry for you. I hate it. But as a Christian, it isn’t your business to make your oppressors pay for their wrong-doing. Maybe your church has been mistreated. Perhaps your ancestors were oppressed. That’s awful. But as a believer and follower of Christ, you have no business holding onto that.
What then? Should we just smile and go on, expecting the oppressors to continue hurting others? Yes and no. We should smile and go on. We should as ‘Jesus people’ offer sustenance to those who are evil. It is hard to offer the Gospel to someone you are attacking. But that doesn’t mean the offenders get off with no accountability for their actions. God will ultimately make all evil doers pay. But even now He has another realm of authority called the government. This is His legal/justice arm in the world today. So we as Christians can do good to the unjust and pray that God’s justice wins at the same time.
In the end, the government has been given the sword of justice and judgment, and we as the Church have been given the sword of truth. And in that truth we find justice, mercy, and humility. But you can’t walk in humility and revenge at the same time. The apostle James, the brother of Jesus put it this way, “The anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.” (James 1:20)
We live in a victim-oriented culture. Everyone wants their day in court. They want to be repaid for what others have done to them. Lawyers are lined up to ‘get you yours.’ And there is no time limit to our outrage. We want justice for what happened 4 seconds ago, and 400 years ago. Revenge has become its own industry. But it is not our business. It is God’s. And if we ever see holy justice, it will cause us to reach out that much more quickly in mercy, humility, and grace.
Today you will have opportunities to look the other way on injustice. Don’t do it. Don’t close your eyes to reality. Speak up. Defend those who cannot defend their own selves. Lay your life down to protect your friends. But don’t open your hand in vengeance to try and right every wrong. Don’t carry out revenge for yourself. Take your lumps of injustice as Jesus took His. You are on a mission to save the world, not to save your own skin. Lay down your life for your enemies. They cannot overcome that.
The greatest injustice was an innocent man willingly sacrificing Himself for an evil world. Yet through that came the most precious justice… that He was able to reconcile to Himself those who had been unjustly stolen by the enemy. Pursue that justice today, and let your revenge melt away. Instead of fighting for the recompense you think you deserve, fight for what you don’t deserve… redemption, regeneration, and reconciliation.
[Bible quotes are from the Holman Christian Standard Bible, unless otherwise noted.]
Find more of David’s work at Heart Of Ministry.
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My name is David, and I want to know God more, and help other people find Him.