“Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” (Romans 12:19b)
How do you react when you are mistreated? Or worse, how do you react when someone mistreats someone that you love?
Our first response is usually one of anger and vengeance. We dream of getting even or attacking someone who has hurt our loved ones. But God tells us that He is the judge of the universe, and He is the one who will doll out justice when the time is right. When we fail to exercise faith in God by trusting in Him to distribute justice, we too end up acting in evil ways. Just look at the example of Simeon and Levi.
Please read Genesis 34:5-31.
To answer Simeon and Levi’s question, “no, Shechem should not have treated Dinah like a prostitute… but neither should they lied, temporarily crippling all the males of an entire village through adult circumcision (ouch!), and then murdered them.
What Shechem did was horrendous. He never should have raped Dinah, and he deserves to be punished. But who should be the punisher?
Jesus said, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone” (John 8:7), and later He said, “first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:5).
These passages remind us that we too are sinful people who have done evil deeds, thought evil thoughts, and said evil things. We too have hurt others and offended God. We too deserve judgment. It is not our place to pass judgment on others.
We love to compare ourselves to other people, and to condemn those whose actions we deem as viler than our own. But when we execute our version of justice on those who have hurt us, then we are putting ourselves in the place of God.
God has called us to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44), to “bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them” (Romans 12:14), and even: “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink” (Romans 12:20).
Our place is to love others unflinchingly, overwhelmingly, and unconditionally. We do not love others because they are so loveable; we love others because God first loved us. When others hurt us, we remember how deeply we have sinned against God, and that He loved us and forgave us. No matter what they may do to us, we respond with love. Then the world will know that we are Christians by our love.
But, you may object, what about those who have done some truly heinous deeds? What about the rapists and the murderers? What about the swindlers and the drug dealers? What about that man who assaulted my wife or that man who harassed my sister? What should I do with them?
The answer is hard, but simple: love them. Just as God has forgiven you of your many sins, God can forgive them of their sin, if they are willing to surrender to Jesus as their Savior and Lord. God is a merciful God who will show mercy on evildoers if they repent and have faith in Christ. This is why Jonah didn’t want to go to Nineveh: the Ninevites had oppressed his people and Jonah didn’t want God to forgive them. But God is a God of mercy—and thank God for that! Otherwise we would all be lost!
One final thought: God is a God of mercy, but He's also a God of justice. If a person refuses to come to Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of their sins, then they will have to stand before God on judgment day. And God is a far greater executioner than we will ever be. God will execute justice in a far worse way than we can ever imagine. Simeon and Levi thought that they were dolling out justice on Shechem’s tribe by deceitfully urging them to circumcise themselves before murdering them (a fate that makes every man wince in pain!). But, had they left vengeance up to God, we know that He would have given even greater justice!
Vengeance is the Lord’s--only He is truly qualified and able to execute the greatest form of justice. We need to trust and obey Him by letting Him execute justice, while we love even those who have hurt us.
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