Summary: Revenge is sweet, but has a bitter aftertaste. Paul declares that Sincere Love resists the urge to take revenge.

Sincerely Yours – Revenge

Romans 12:17-20

August 30, 2009

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It’s like a poison. It can take you over. Before you know it, it can turn us into something ugly.

Aunt Mae is talking about revenge and that’s what we want to discuss this morning and in our small groups this evening. To put it briefly, Paul is against it. Don’t take revenge, says Paul. Do not pay back evil for evil are his words. And Paul is not alone in this opinion. In this teaching he quotes from two passages in the Old Testament which gives the same advice:

Deuteronomy 32:35

It is mine to avenge; I will repay.

Proverbs 25:21-22

If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink.

22 In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.

Jesus also teaches against retaliation:

Matthew 5:38-42 (Sermon on the Mount)

38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’

39 But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.

40 And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.

41 If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.

42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

But we love revenge. Have you ever found yourself delighting in creating ways to back at someone who has wronged you?

We will even give considerable time being creative in our revenge:

The story is told of a soldier who was fighting over in Iraq who received a letter from his girlfriend that said she was breaking up with him. In the letter she also asked for him to return the picture of herself that she had given him, because she needed it for her bridal announcement. The soldier was heartbroken and told his friends about the breakup and about her request. Someone came up with this idea – the whole platoon gave him pictures of all of their girlfriends and told him to send them to his ex-girlfriend with this note – “For the life of me, I can’t remember which picture is yours, so please remove your picture from all of these pictures I’m sending and return the rest of them to me!”

There’s an expression – Revenge is Sweet

We love the idea of people who have hurt us getting theirs.

Driving, I’m annoyed by people who race up right behind you, flash their lights at you, you pull over so they can pass. As they pass I fantasize about them being pulled over for speeding and me laughing as I pass them.

Revenge is sweet but Paul says don’t do it. But why? Why not?

Well he gives three reasons:

Living lives of revenge can turn us into evil people

• Revenge often makes us do things that are wrong and therefore compromises our witness to the world.

Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody.

• Think of a time when you were most evil – it very well may have been a time when you were bent on revenge.

• So many times revenge is not limited to simply repaying but repaying plus a little extra.

• In fact that’s the thought in that OT passage eye for eye tooth for tooth.

• It wasn’t to encourage revenge so much as it was to limit the revenge you could take on someone.

• Revenge has led many a good person to do terrible things.

• Like Aunt Mae said, It’s like a poison. It can take you over. Before you know it, it can turn us into something ugly.

It does not lead to peace

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

• When has revenge ever brought peace?

• Someone punches you in the eye, you punch him back. When has it ever stopped at that? When has someone ever said, I deserved that. Fights over.

• Revenge becomes this vicious cycle.

• Someone said that if we lived by the rule eye for eye, tooth for tooth we’d all be blind and toothless.

• Revenge doesn’t lead to peace.

• Now sometimes peace is beyond our control. But we are called to be peacemakers, not vengeance takers.

It expresses a lack of faith in God’s justice

• It usurps God’s role

Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.

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