Summary: A sermon about not taking revenge.
“A Radically Different Way”
In preparing for this sermon I came upon a website for a business that makes its money off of people who want to get revenge on others.
The company is called “Masters of Revenge.”
They offer different categories of persons you might want to hurt such as:
1. Getting revenge on an ex-friend
2. Getting revenge on an ex-lover
3. Getting revenge on a boss
4. Getting revenge on a co-worker
5. And Getting revenge on a neighbor
For only $2.96 you can have “Masters of Revenge” send a nasty anonymous text to an ex-friend that says:
“Roses are red. Violets are blue. But a face like yours belongs in a zoo.”
“Why don’t you slip into something more comfortable? Like a coma.”
There are lots of them to choose from.
And these are the cleanest and mildest ones I could find.
For $5.78 they will send your victim a hateful email that is guaranteed to be “totally untraceable.”
The company will also make nuisance phone calls for you.
For only $48.00 they will: “Annoy them any time of day or night with constant, unrelenting and infuriating nuisance calls.
We even record their reaction!” it says.
I think you get the gist.
A lot of us, I suspect have known a time in our lives when we would have liked to, as we say: “get even with” someone who has done something to us.
And at any moment, there might be someone who would like to take revenge on us.
The desire for revenge is like a deep itch somewhere right down inside.
Revenge has been described as being “sweet.”
And it is a very human thing.
How many wars have to do with revenge?
How many murders have revenge written all over them?
How many horrible, evil, twisted things done to hurt people have been done in the name of revenge?
How many people are in prison due to having taken out revenge on another person?
Revenge is anything but sweet.
It hurts everyone.
But it seems so right sometimes.
This is one of my favorite passages of Scripture.
One of the reasons I love it so much is because it so goes against the grain of our natural tendencies…
…and it is so “right.”
It is the truth.
It is the way we should do things.
It is the way we should behave.
But it is so radically different than the way we usually act in this world that, to some, it may even seem laughable:
“Honor one another above yourselves”?
“Bless those who persecute you”?
“Do not repay anyone evil for evil”?
“Do not take revenge”?
“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good”?
It’s like Jesus saying: “Do not resist an evil person” and “If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.”
But I’ll tell you, this is how I want to live.
This is how I want to be.
This is what I believe in.
But is it even possible?
Is it even healthy?
A group of Swiss researchers wanted to know what happens in the brain when someone reaps revenge.
First they scanned the brains of people who had just been wronged during a game in the lab.
Then the researchers gave the wronged participant a chance to punish the other person, and for a full minute as the victim’s contemplated their revenge, the activity in their brain was recorded.
Immediately, researchers noticed a rush of neural activity in the part of the brain known to process rewards.
This study found that revenge, in the moment, is quite rewarding.
However, they wanted to know one more thing: Does revenge keep rewarding?
I mean, movies often portray the act of revenge as a way of gaining closure after a wrong.
But in fact, revenge has the opposite effect.
Even though the first few moments feel rewarding in the brain, psychological scientists have found that instead of quenching hostility, revenge prolongs the unpleasantness of the original offense.
Instead of delivering justice, revenge often creates only a cycle of retaliation.
Revenge re-opens and aggravates our emotional wounds.
Even though we might be tempted to punish a wrong, we end up punishing ourselves because we can’t heal.
Now, saying that we shouldn’t take revenge doesn’t mean that evil isn’t real, or that it didn’t hurt after all, or that it doesn’t matter.
Evil is real.
It often does hurt, sometimes very badly and with lasting effects, and it does matter!
But because we believe in a Creator God Who made a good and lovely world, we believe that everything that defaces and distorts, damages or spoils part of this creation is not just wrong—it’s evil.
So what are we to do about it?