Revenge - Not Your Problem
This morning as I was reading my Bible, I ran across some Scripture that I thought hit to the heart of the matter of love, friendship, fellowship, revenge and even worship.
Skeptics tend to think of Christianity as something of judgment, intolerance and wrath of God, sprinkled with insincere altruistic tasks and works. Counter to that, we as Christians like to talk about unconditional love, and sometimes misrepresent what that means in accordance with Scripture. However, for all of the dispersions and misrepresentations that are cast upon the Bible and its messages, sometimes the message of truly unconditional love gets convoluted with the biblical responsibilities we have as true believers.
I was thinking about my personality and the nature of people that I know intimately. And after reading this particular Scripture I found that it's easy enough to read, but do we (I) really apply all of these principles that are stated there? I look at some of my past relationships, and even my current ones, and I find that it's inherently difficult to be the kind of person that this Scripture (God) expects us to be.
In some of my audio segments, I talked about how God knows our hearts. I speak on insincere gestures as a means to salvation. This is the type of gospel that is taught to many so-called "Christians” and is the basis for most of the “good deeds” you see from most people you know and (or) profess to follow Christ’s teachings and examples. A lot of Christians do things out of obligation to meet a certain end, in their belief systems, rather than from a sincere heart. Therein is the problem because God KNOWS when you are not being truthful in your tasks. He knows when you're just checking the boxes as it pertains to your enemies, your friends, and even your loved ones. Because of our faulty nature, we, for the most part, don't want to show mercy or grace to those who offend us. We have a hard time being "nice" to those who we believe are not worthy of it. We have learned to “play” nice even if it’s not in our hearts to do so. This approach is insincere at best and is not in accordance to scripture and is, to be more blunt, fake as hell!
Then there are those who are not predisposed to being fake for any reason. They put their hearts on their sleeves and act friendly to those they like and jack asses to those they don’t. This is seen as somewhat of a virtue in some circles… keeping it REAL! Say and do (or not do) what’s on your heart no matter how it hurts someone or complicates a situation. This approach is absolutely self-indulgent and only helps the individual meet some sort of strange and sometimes inexplicable end. I guess I would rather have this type of person in front of me than the former, in that, at least I know where I stand with them. This cliquish behavior can lead to racist and classist (caste) ideologies that are just two of the various reasons for the litany of problems we have (had) throughout history and the planet. However, no one is exempt from this type of behavior. We all act this way in one form or another from time to time. We sometimes even go as far as to take revenge on those we feel have slighted us. There are varying degrees of our vengeance, some less severe than others, but nonetheless, it is not biblical for us to behave in this manner.
But we are not perfect. And we exhibit and harbor bitterness in our hearts even when we don't want to. Speaking for myself, I am consistently fighting the urge to be bitter in my everyday dealings. I can chronicle every perceived slight against me and my reasoning for wanting to deal negatively with those responsible. It runs the gamut of all types of people including those in my family. This is an everyday thing for me, and I can tell you, it doesn't help me one bit.
So I turned to the Bible for some kind of guidance in this way of thinking. And I know that everything in this book is edifying, however Romans 12:9 – 21 is the most clear and concise Scripture that I have read up-to-date that covers this. It gives you the parameters by which God wants us to live our lives. I personally think it takes the weight off of having to carry the responsibility of avenging myself against my "enemies". See, the task of wanting to show someone that they have made a mistake in crossing me is really quite stressful. There has to be some aforethought as to how to do it, when to do it, what to say when you see them the next time, is it really going to do any good, will it sufficiently hurt them enough for them to feel sorry etc. etc…
That is a lot of work. And to be quite honest with you, spiritually damaging and nowhere near edifying. I know that some find satisfaction in revenge. The old saying is "revenge is best served cold". Or, "the best revenge is to do well". That is some douche bag nonsense. The first method leans toward harboring resentment until you can “ambush” them with your attack and the second is steeped in materialism and puts an emphasis on chasing fortune and/or fame to get back at someone. Both of these principles can be effective if revenge is your game, however, it’s a punk move to “sneak attack” someone in any way, shape or form if you’re not a freaking soldier in an ACTUAL BATTLE… secondly, what if you don’t become rich and/or famous? Then you’re just some resentful, poor assed putz continually waiting for your opportunity to get at someone with your dreams! Even IF you do achieve all of what is stated above, what if they don’t care? What if they REALLY don’t care about your status or what you say about them? The opposite of love is not hate but indifference. If someone is indifferent to you, your fame and riches, what real damage have you done? Maybe, no matter how much money you make or what your perceived social status is, you are still considered a degenerate to the very person you are trying to affect negatively. Wasted energy as far as I’m concerned. Moreover, it’s not in keeping with Gospel! Really, all revenge does is put you in a place where you really want to hurt someone with the happenstance that you might get hurt in return or to no effect whatsoever. Another point of this is you never really know the extent of the reaction to your revenge. Things could escalate to a point of no return and more than just your ego gets trampled.
So the point of all this is, let God deal with your enemies. Sincerely, within the mandates of the Scripture, be an edifying force against those who would like to see you in a bad situation. Speak highly of those who speak against you. And mean it. If you are SINCERE (verse 9) in your praise of your enemies, God will handle the rest(verse 20). I'm sure that anyone can find value in someone else. Especially in those that are former friends or loved ones. I personally have people in my life I no longer associate with, for whatever reason, and because of my faith in God’s Word, I have focused on all that is positive with them. Whether the slight was mine or theirs, I still love them for the positivity they brought into my life. It's not that difficult to do. It all came with recognizing where the bitterness came from and distinguishing the factors that led to the strife within the relationships and my part in it. If that becomes your frame of thought not only will you become a force for positivity in your daily dealings with people, but you will also be in accordance with Scripture and in God's favor.
A final point to this is… You shouldn’t be giving your enemies that much weight in your life anyway. I've said before that when you let any one person, organization or situation sway your emotions to the extreme one way or the other, then that is some sort of quasi-worship. There are things in my life that I love, and there are people who I love. However, God does not intend for us to put them in a position that takes the focus from Him. When we allow our enemies to direct our emotions to places that are steeped in dissension, animosity and revenge, then we are giving the utmost attention and value to their activities and their opinions… Quasi-Worship…
No person should ever have that much control over you. No one. And as much as I love the people in my life, there are certain places within my sphere of influence that I will not allow them. This is because I understand where my focus should be and what my responsibilities are and are not. To be an example of God's grace is my responsibility, judging (not to be mistaken for rebuking and exhorting) and avenging is not.
One caveat to this is you don't have to be a victim. God does not intend for you to take on unwarranted criticism or violence against your person. Salvation does not equal being soft in stature and message. But with that in mind, do not be a catalyst of dissension and discord. Remember vengeance is only sexy in the movies and is not your responsibility if your focus is on Jehovah's message. It is our father's responsibility to meet out punishments in our defense. And He most certainly will. It’s His responsibility and His alone. When you take that away from Him and upon your own back, then the damage you do is of your own accord and carries many risks to yourself, to your family, maybe your job, but most assuredly to your spiritual standing with God.
The real enemy wants you to lean away from God’s protection and take things into your own hands. He needs you to be vulnerable so that he can do with you what he wants. When he gets his way, nothing good comes of it.
He wants us to hate one another. He wants us to be at odds with what’s good and healthy. He wants to destroy us and what better way to achieve this end is for us to destroy ourselves, mentally, physically and spiritually. It all starts with the small slight we perceive and escalates to levels that can have dire consequences both here and in the afterlife, if our focus is not on God and His Word. Further, when we practice bitterness, (yes, this is a practice) hate and dissension, we become windows through which the enemy can enter. If you are a believer then you know I am talking about demons and their influence on our lives. If you believe in angels and believe they protect, then you have to believe in the opposite and the power they can exert as you go about your day to day. When you invite them in, they don’t leave unless compelled (practicing God’s wants /scripture). Why do you think that the resentment and hatred you feel for extended amounts of time are harder to shake? They have set up a house in your heart and are comfortable there! When you walk around with these negative feelings in your chest and head, it’s almost like being possessed, in my estimation. If you are a believer in God (the truth is, “or not”) and you are not practicing what is written in scripture as it pertains to Agape’ Love (Google it), then you might be led by the wrong spirit… and I don’t mean school spirit either…
Does that sit well with you? Are you okay with that? If you’re not sure about God, would you even want to take the chance? Is this even the type of person you want to be? Because if you think you know God and you are “practicing” the bitterness doctrine, then you really don’t know the God of the Bible and that’s not a good thing.
Romans 12:9 – 21 is the perfect illustration of how we as believing Christians should live our daily lives: As SINCERE examples of God’s grace and mercy. That is… love sincerely and allow God to deal with your so called “enemies”. God will not tolerate true believers to suffer under adversaries. If you are TRULY walking in Christ, then their fight is with Him also! He will deal with them in His own way and in His own time. They cannot win… I live by Isaiah 54:17… And I truly believe that promise. In the meantime, heap burning coals on their heads… with kindness.
You may as well read Romans 12:1 – 21 (this is July 29 in the NIV study Bible) to get your full portion of manna. Most would find it difficult to adhere to a lot of this given our genetic makeup and culture; however, it is not inconceivable to live these concepts. I would hope that my friends and family and even those who would consider me an enemy, would look at the Scripture and take it to heart. It is a message of love and a mandate for effective communal relations, friendship, fellowship and most importantly, worship of El Shaddai.