“Vengeance is Mine and recompense. Their foot shall slip in due time.”  Deuteronomy 32:35

“You have heard it said ‘An eye for an eye…’. But I tell you not to resist an evil person.”  Matthew 5:38

“…I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also, and greater works than these he will do…..”  John 14:12

Vengeance, the infliction of injury, harm, humiliation, or the like on a person by another person who has been harmed by that person, is a word we don’t use much today, but the concept is very alive and well I’m afraid.  It is a concept that often finds itself jumbled up with concepts like justice and accountability.  We find it playing out in response to horrific acts of mass destruction.  Yet, and perhaps particularly troubling, we find it perpetrated against acts like being cut off in traffic, someone cutting in line in front of someone else in a check out line at a store or even the perception that someone has said something insulting or derogatory against someone else.  My wife is seeing it acted out more and more between the fourth and fifth graders she teaches.

I will freely admit that in our current state that this is a challenging concept to fully grasp as well as a difficult behavior to cultivate, that being the idea of non-retaliation.  Is Our Heavenly Father prohibiting all actions of self protection or defense?  If I see or experience an circumstance of continuing injustice; am I to nothing to attempt to assuage that condition of injustice?  Perhaps we can find something in the context of the above verses.

To startoff in Deuteronomy, some might think that the “Vengeance is Mine” statement is primarily directed against enemies of Israel, maybe like Egypt or Philistines who are attacking His people.  Yet this phrase comes from the Song of Moses at the end of Deuteronomy where he is speaking to the entire assembled people as he is about to die and then the remnant of the people are going to cross over into the promised land.  In his “song”, Moses is lamenting and warning the Israel people about their own stubbornness and disobedience and how there will be vengeance and judgement from the Lord.

Jesus is teaching His wonderfully powerful sermon on the mountain.  In this teaching, Jesus is laying out the precepts of what is important in life as well as what faithful obedience to His Heavenly Father would look like; what behavior is required.  Right after His point on not seeking retribution; He talks about loving our enemies.

In Romans, chapter 12 verse 17, Paul refers to both Deuteronomy and Jesus’ teaching when he starts out the verse “Repay no one evil for evil”.  Perhaps that is the primary reason that vengeance whether in the formal sense or in the guise of “just getting what is owed me or just sticking up for myself”, is not to be carried out by you and I.  We can’t do it right.  In other words, when we act in vengeance, we act from anger, hatred, pride in ourselves and\or the desire\need to hurt others.  In Deuteronomy, vengeance being the sole purview of God allows for two things.  First, as it is stated any vengeance acted out will be in keeping with God’s perfect plan, His perfect timing.  Second, being in the realm of God, it will be carried out from a standpoint of perfect justice and righteous judgement.  No evil can come from God.  Jesus is telling us we are ill equipped to be able to correctly carry out righteous vengeance.  Therefore, as we’ve been treated with mercy and forgiveness; though we have sinned grievously against God, we should do likewise to those we feel have wronged us.

Finally, I will freely admit that this is not a sentiment or behavior that is positively looked on today.  For many, this would be looked at as weak, perhaps even cowardice and being complicit with evil.  I struggle with the tendency to want perceived wrongs enacted against me put right by force if necessary and perpetrators punished.  To leave vengeance to the Lord and turn the other cheek is not the world’s way and I fear it is a standard too high for us to meet on our own.  Yet mercifully, Jesus tells us that we are not on our own.  Jesus Christ who time and again turned the other cheek; who could have called legions of angels to enact vengeance for His ill treatment but remained silent; Christ who is now glorified above all angels and heavenly host and sits on the very Right Hand of God Himself, Christ tells us that we don’t have to act as if we are on our own.  Christ tells us that by believing and abiding in Him, we can not only do, as He did on this earth, but even greater things.  Without Christ we can not, through and in Christ we can.

Dear Sisters and Brothers, let us strive to leave vengeance in the Hands of God.  Let us remember that we are sinners and have sinned against God and instead of having vengeance cast down upon us; have received mercy and redemption instead through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  When tempted to lash out, let us, instead, reach up to Christ receiving His mercy and, in turn, pass it on.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we humbly declare that You are God in Heaven, perfect in every way including the act of vengeance.  We also testify that You have taught us that we are not to seek vengeance against our fellow creation.  Forgive us when we become impatient and want to act on our own for what we perceive are actions taken against us.  Fill us with Your Spirit of compassion, mercy and forgiveness, that we can truly be seen as Children of the Most High God.  This we pray in the name of Your Son Jesus Christ.  Amen

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