Vengeance and Christians
In light of the recent murder of an abortionist and the inappropriate comments by a pastor about this murder, I feel compelled to speak to the issue of vengeance and violence.
I am retired from the military and some religious groups would tell me that I was wrong to serve because they feel Christians are to be pacifists and never participate in violence even if in self-defense. I disagree with them but accept their perspective and my wearing the uniform helped them to be able to hold to and practice that belief.
I believe that Christians can serve their country as soldiers and definitely have the right to self-defense. However, they do not have the right to vigilante justice or personal vengeance. In fact, as God says in Isaiah 55:8, we are called to His ways and thoughts which are not our natural thoughts are higher than we can achieve without Him.
17 Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men.
18 If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.
19 Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.
20 Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head.
21 Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good. KJV
No matter how much we may abhor someone’s actions or practices we do not advance the cause of righteousness by doing evil. Are there things in the world that anger us? Yes, we are allowed righteous anger or indignation. We also know that we are still human and can be tempted to unrighteous wrath. Nonetheless, we are commanded in Ephesians to not let the sun to go down on our wrath and here in this passage to give place to it or to put it like a sword into its sheath or scabbard. The battle is the Lord’s and we need to stand fast and watch Him handle it.
We are to live in peace, as much as is possible when we have any say in it or as much as lieth in us. Sometimes you are not going to be allowed to live peaceably because your enemy refuses to live in peace. In those times, you do what verse 20 says and provide for their needs. If that ’umbleness and kindness is refused and abused it is on your enemy’s head and God shall take care of it.
You might say, “Ron, you just don’t know how angry ____ makes me!!” I probably do. I was a angry young man full of angst in the 60’s. If I would have had the power to turn “if looks could kill” into a reality they would have been doing a lot of funeral business. For years after I was saved, I still had some of the “sons of thunder” or “ Boanerges” in me. (Mark 3:17) If I am not careful, some of that can still flare up as I see the rising tide of injustices and things that go against the Bible, the Constitution and even the not so common Common Sense. Yet, I have to let it go and let God.
Unlike some religions, I do not have to avenge or defend my God. He is quite capable of taking care of Himself. He is merciful, long suffering and full of grace but He also says in this passage that He will repay. Like the little girl who would not take a handful of cherries when the grocer told her, but waited until he gave her a handful because his hand is bigger it is well if we allow God to avenge injustices because He has the bigger hand. He also has all the facts. He will handle the issue to perfection so why should we botch it up by running a muck with our volatile emotions and imperfect knowledge? If we really want things set right, let Him do it. After all, “Shall not the Judge of the earth do right?” (Gen 18:25) Besides what do our troubles mean to us?