The concept of vengeance permeates our culture and saturates our thinking. Movies feature caped crusaders avenging the deaths of loved ones or wrongs committed against them. Some reality shows feature men and women confronting their cheating partners and spouses. Sometimes, they get back at their partners by physical violence like a slap or a punch.
Courtroom TV shows many people who have taken vengeance on others. A wife keys the car of her husband’s girlfriend. The estranged husband who tries to estrange his children from his wife. Malicious co-workers gossip about the people who got the promotion they wanted. Some magazines are full of scandalous and outrageous behavior, demonstrating that hell has no fury like a woman or (man for that matter) “scorned.”
In this day and age, the Internet has created new ways for people to take revenge, such as posting slanderous comments on social media or naked pictures/videos. Some divorced individuals try to hurt their former mates by denigrating and complaining about them to their children. A thirst for revenge is our natural response to a perceived wrong. Our first instinct is to lash out and punish those who hurt us.
God as our Avenger
The Bible identifies God as our avenger. The Bible says:
Do not say, “I’ll pay you back for this wrong!” Wait for the Lord, and he will avenge you (Proverbs 20:22)
Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord (Romans 12:1).
God says that only he has the right to avenge and tells His people not to avenge themselves (Romans 12:19). Why? Because revenge can be a powerful, destructive force that we cannot handle. It is like trying to control a storm – it just does not work.
A person who sets out to wreak vengeance on someone else is full of toxic pain and anger that will end up hurting much more than their target. Their anger will lead to sin that will cause pain not only to the individuals who wronged them but to the innocents around them, such as their family and friends.
God does not want us to be in a constant state of anguish and rage. Instead, He assures us that He sees how people sin against us and will take action against them. God wants us to forgive our enemies and pray for them. He understands that we will be upset by the actions of others but tells us not to hold on to our anger (Ephesians 4:26). God tells us to put away our malice (Ephesians 4:31). If we don`t, we are opening the door for the devil to enter our lives.
The Difference Between Revenge and Accountability
There is a big difference between revenge and accountability. For example, let’s say a man assaulted a woman. She had a choice to ignore it and pretend that it did not happen or to report the attack to the police and testify against him in court. She is holding him responsible for his criminal behavior, not acting in vengeance. Justice is served because the offender ends up in jail where he cannot harm her or other women.
In this situation, the woman can, with God’s help, forgive him and deal with the pain of her ordeal. Or she can choose to take vengeance and, in a state of self-destructive rage of hatred, harm him or kill him. Then she ends up in jail too. The negative emotions that brought her to that toxic mental state could also push her to other destructive behavior that will harm others.
God commands us to love and forgive one another (Matthew 6:15). This state of being is the opposite of the bitterness and hatred that stirs up the desire to take revenge. In the end, revenge wrecks havoc like a hurricane. It destroys everything in its path, including the person committing the act.
When a divorced person puts down their former mate to their children, for example, it confuses and hurts the kids. When their children realize what the parent has done, they may feel resentment towards that parent.
The little bit of satisfaction derived from an act of vengeance is nothing compared to the satisfaction of knowing that God will deal with these difficult situations for us. We can be sure that He will be our avenger when people offend against us.