BY PASTOR T. O. BANSO
A dictionary defines revenge as “the action of inflicting hurt or harm on someone for an injury or wrong suffered at their hands.” To revenge means to hurt or harm someone for the injury or wrong he has done to you. Revenge is less concerned about seeing justice done; all it seeks is retaliation.
Traditionally, to avenge means to punish a wrong on someone’s behalf with the intent of getting justice – an act of retributive justice. But a child of God is neither permitted to revenge nor avenge. Proverbs 20:22 says, “Don’t say, ‘I will get even for this wrong.’ Wait for the LORD to handle the matter” (NLT). Proverbs 24:28-29 also warns against revenge: “Do not testify spitefully against innocent neighbors; don’t lie about them. And don’t say, ‘Now I can pay them back for all their meanness to me! I’ll get even!’” (NLT)
Jesus, in his revolutionary teachings, also underscored the need to avoid revenge or seek vengeance. Jesus said, “You have heard that the law of Moses says, ‘If an eye is injured, injure the eye of the person who did it. If a tooth gets knocked out, knock out the tooth of the person who did it.’ But I say, don’t resist an evil person! If you are slapped on the right cheek, turn the other, too” (Matthew 5:38-40 NLT). It is not for individuals to punish others for injuries done them; if they desire punishment of offenders within the human system, they can only report to appropriate agencies of government. That is why the law is there for appropriate authorities to apply sanctions. Individuals should not take the law into their hands for revenge or vengeance. That will amount to self-help.
But if we follow what the Bible says, we shall hand over to God anyone who has harmed us no matter the magnitude of the harm, and no matter how angry we are at settling scores. He is the God of justice (Isaiah 26:7b; 30:18b). “Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord. Therefore ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:19-21 NKJV). Deuteronomy 32:35a says a similar thing: “Vengeance is Mine, and recompense” (NKJV).
Also in 1Peter 3:9, believers are told not to seek revenge for any evil done to them. “Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate when people say unkind things about you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing”(NLT). 1 Thessalonians 5:15 expresses a similar truth: “See that no one renders evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue what is good both for yourselves and for all” (NKJV).
David avoided seeking revenge
Two times David had the opportunity of killing King Saul who was chasing him around to kill him but he didn’t pay him back evil with evil. On the first occasion, David told Saul, “Let the LORD judge between you and me, and let the LORD avenge me on you. But my hand shall not be against you. As the proverb of the ancients says, ‘Wickedness proceeds from the wicked.’ But my hand shall not be against you” (1 Samuel 24:12-13 NKJV).
On the second occasion, David had another opportunity to kill Saul; he even took the spear and the jug of water by Saul’s head and went away. But he refused to kill him because he was the Lord’s anointed. He didn’t repay evil with evil (1 Samuel 26).
But in peace-time, Joab stabbed Abner in the stomach and killed him for killing Asahel his brother (2 Samuel 3:27). But if one reads how Asahel died, one will see that Abner tried to avoid killing him but he did not heed his warning to stop pursuing him. “And Abner said to him, ‘Turn aside to your right hand or to your left, and lay hold on one of the young men and take his armor for yourself.’ But Asahel would not turn aside from following him. So Abner said again to Asahel, ‘Turn aside from following me. Why should I strike you to the ground? How then could I face your brother Joab?’ However, he refused to turn aside. Therefore Abner struck him in the stomach with the blunt end of the spear, so that the spear came out of his back; and he fell down there and died on the spot. So it was that as many as came to the place where Asahel fell down and died, stood still” (2 Samuel 2:21-23 NKJV).
Asahel died because he was stubborn. Though he could run like a deer (2 Samuel 2:18), he didn’t act in good judgment. He was like an automobile without an effective brake system! Psalm 32:9 warns, “Do not be like a senseless horse or mule that needs a bit and bridle to keep it under control” (NLT). Asahel wouldn’t have died if he had applied brake in his pursuit of Abner. But his brother retaliated. 2 Samuel 3:30 says, “Joab and Abishai his brother killed Abner, because he had killed their brother Asahel at Gibeon in the battle” (NKJV).
The death of Abner pained David so much because it was needless, as he was already working towards turning over to David all Israel being ruled by Ish-bosheth, Saul’s son. David was reigning at that time over only his tribe, the tribe of Judah in Hebron. David said, “My kingdom and I are guiltless before the LORD forever of the blood of Abner the son of Ner. Let it rest on the head of Joab and on all his father’s house; and let there never fail to be in the house of Joab one who has a discharge or is a leper, who leans on a staff or falls by the sword, or who lacks bread” (2 Samuel 3:28-30 NKJV).
Absalom, Jezebel & Ahab
In 2 Sam 13:1-22 Amnon, the first son of David, raped Tamar, his half-sister, and in 2 Samuel 13: 23-29, Absalom, revenged by getting him killed. Two wrongs don’t make a right. Absalom had to flee from home thereafter.
In 1 Kings 19:2-3, Jezebel threatened to avenge the killing of the prophets of Baal by Elijah; he threatened to kill him by the following day. Elijah ran for his life on hearing this knowing how wicked Jezebel was. But that didn’t mean God would have allowed her. Elijah momentarily took his eyes away from God but was looking at the storm just like Peter hence he started sinking (Matthew 14:30-31). Jezebel couldn’t kill him; he returned later to his ministry.
Like husband, like the wife. For prophesying disaster concerning the war Ahab was going to fight, Micaiah was ordered to be put in prison by Ahab until he would return from the battle in peace (1Kings 22:26-27). But Micaiah called the attention of the people and said, “If you ever return in peace, the LORD has not spoken by me” (verse 28). Ahab never came back alive. He died in the battle as the prophet of God had said. He should have listened to the prophet of God instead of engaging in an act of needless revenge.
God hates revenge. That was why he was angry with the people of Edom for avenging themselves against the nation of Israel, their relations. “Thus saith the Lord Jehovah: Because that Edom hath dealt against the house of Judah by taking vengeance, and hath greatly offended, and revenged himself upon them; therefore thus saith the Lord Jehovah, I will stretch out my hand upon Edom, and will cut off man and beast from it; and I will make it desolate from Teman; even unto Dedan shall they fall by the sword. And I will lay my vengeance upon Edom by the hand of my people Israel; and they shall do in Edom according to mine anger and according to my wrath; and they shall know my vengeance, saith the Lord Jehovah” (Ezekiel 25:12-14 ASV).
See a similar thing God said about the Philistines for their vengeful spirit: “’Because the Philistines dealt vengefully and took vengeance with a spiteful heart, to destroy because of the old hatred,’ therefore thus says the Lord GOD: ‘I will stretch out My hand against the Philistines, and I will cut off the Cherethites and destroy the remnant of the seacoast. I will execute great vengeance on them with furious rebukes; and they shall know that I am the LORD, when I lay My vengeance upon them'” (Ezekiel 25:15-17 NKJV).
Reasons revenge is bad
1. Revenge is forbidden by God. To revenge is to act in disobedience to the Word of God. Leviticus 19:18 says, “You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD” (NKJV). God has said you shouldn’t seek revenge, and to do so is a sin. “Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men” (Romans 12:17 NKJV). 1 Peter 3:9 says a similar thing: “Not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing” (NKJV). Revenge is bad because it is forbidden by God and therefore it’s a sin.
2. Revenge is not the spirit of Christ. You can’t call yourself a Christian and be seeking revenge. Revenge is contrary to the Spirit of Christ. When James and John asked Jesus if he wanted them to command fire down from heaven to consume the village of Samaria that refused them passage on their way to Jerusalem just like Elijah did, Jesus rebuked them saying, “You do not know what manner of spirit you are of. For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them…” (Luke 9:55-56 NKJV). If you’re a Christian don’t seek revenge; the Spirit in you forbids it.
3. Revenge is taking over God‘s work. We read earlier in Romans 12:19-21 and in Deuteronomy 32:35a that God says vengeance is His. God will not be pleased that you’re taking over His job. You are, by that, saying you can do it better than Him! Leave God to do His job; you can’t do it better than Him. Don’t trespass!
4, Revenge doesn’t make you feel better, it makes you feel worse. People say, “Revenge is sweet.” That is talking about “when you feel satisfaction from harming someone who has harmed you” (Cambridge Advanced Learners Dictionary & Thesaurus). Repaying evil with evil can never make you feel better. Repaying evil with evil may appear sweet before the revenge or in the short run but much later after revenge, the feeling of satisfaction turns to regret. You don’t feel better than you were; you actually feel worse. “The best sort of revenge is not to be like him who did the injury” (Marcus Antoninus).
5. Revenge doesn’t solve the problem. It is merely a quick-fix, not a permanent solution. Revenge leaves the original problem unsolved. It doesn’t restore to you what you lost. Rather than healing old wounds, it keeps old wounds fresh. It doesn’t reverse the harm done to you.
6. Revenge makes you just like the person who has wronged you. If the person is a murderer, retaliating by killing equally makes you a murderer. Even philosophers agree with the Bible that revenge is bad. English philosopher and statesman, Francis Bacon said, “In taking revenge a man is but equal to his enemy, but in passing it over he is his superior.” Your action may even make you a worse person than the person who wronged you.
7. Revenge is unhealthy for the wronged or injured person. It has a negative impact on you psychologically and physically. Why seek revenge if it’s going to negatively impact your psyche and body? Shouldn’t you love yourself enough to treat yourself well? For the sake of yourself, don’t seek revenge.
8. Revenge may lead to an endless cycle of retaliation. Revenge doesn’t deliver justice but perpetuates injustice, perpetuates enmity. Jacob expressed the fear of a cycle of retaliation after his sons, Simeon and Levi, had avenged on the people of Shechem the rape of their sister, Dinah, by Shechem. They killed all the males and Shechem and his father, Hamor, took away Dinah from Shechem’s house and plundered the city taking away all their sheep, oxen, donkeys, wealth, little ones, and wives. That was on the third day when their males were in pain from the circumcision Simeon and Levi had deceitfully lured them to do as a condition for allowing Shechem to marry Dinah.
Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, “You have troubled me by making me obnoxious among the inhabitants of the land, among the Canaanites and the Perizzites; and since I am few in number, they will gather themselves together against me and kill me. I shall be destroyed, my household and I” (Genesis 34:30 NKJV). Thank God that the cycle of revenge didn’t continue but it is not like that in all cases.
See the cycle of revenge in the relationship between Samson and the Philistines in Judges 15. When Samson discovered that his wife had been given out to his friend by her father, he said, “This time I shall be blameless regarding the Philistines if I harm them!” (verse 3 NKJV). He burned their shocks, the standing grain, and their vineyards and olive groves (verses 4-5). The Philistines retaliated by burning the lady in question and her father (verse 6). The cycle continued: “Samson said to them, ‘Since you would do a thing like this, I will surely take revenge on you, and after that I will cease.’ So he attacked them hip and thigh with a great slaughter; then he went down and dwelt in the cleft of the rock of Etam” (verses 7-8 NKJV).
What did the Philistines do in revenge? They tried to arrest him but based on Samson’s agreement with the people of Judah, he was handed over to the Philistines who thought that they had captured him but at Lehi, “the Spirit of the LORD came mightily upon him; and the ropes that were on his arms became like flax that is burned with fire, and his bonds broke loose from his hands. He found a fresh jawbone of a donkey, reached out his hand and took it, and killed a thousand men with it” (verses 14-15). Did you see the cycle of retaliation? Don’t seek revenge. A proverb says, “He who forgives ends the quarrel.” Forgive, notwithstanding what the wrong has caused you.
9. Revenge is destructive and may boomerang. It may destroy the person who offended you and destroy you too. Revenge may boomerang. For instance, if it results in a crime against the state and you’re caught, you’ll face the music. The initial offence or wrong will not be an excuse for committing the crime. Two wrongs won’t make a right.
10, Revenge puts you permanently in bondage. Your memory is tied to the offender you’ve taken revenge on. He continues to remain part of your life. You’re haunted by the ghost of the evil you’ve done in revenge. You’re troubled continuously by the burden of guilt you carry about. The best thing is to avoid revenge; forgive the person and forget; let him go. Show deep love – love covers a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8). That’s when you’ll have peace of mind and you’ll be able to move on with your life. Leave him in the hands of God.
I agree that some wrongs are not too easy to forgive and forget but in your own interest forgive. Ask for grace from God to forgive no matter the injury, and as a human being, you’ll still remember the wrong sometimes. But each time you remember, forgive again – confess that you have forgiven the fellow. Let God deal with the person in His own way. Let Him heal your wound.
Conclusion: We live in an imperfect world. People will wrong you no matter what – some deliberately, some inadvertently. You wrong people too. God says don’t seek revenge. Follow what God says. Don’t seek revenge; don’t avenge. Don’t take over God’s work. Let God fight for you.
If you are not born again, you need to give your life to Jesus now. I urge you to take the following steps: *Admit you are a sinner and you cannot save yourself and repent of your sins. *Confess Jesus as your Lord and Saviour. *Renounce your past way of life – your relationship with the devil and his works. *Invite Jesus into your life. *As a mark of seriousness to mature in the faith, start attending a Bible-believing and Bible-teaching church. There they will teach you how to grow in the Kingdom of God.
Kindly say this prayer now: O Lord God, I come unto you today. I know I am a sinner and I cannot save myself. I believe that Jesus is the Son of God who died on the cross to save me and resurrected the third day. I repent of my sins and confess Jesus as my Lord and Saviour. I surrender my life to Jesus now and invite Him into my heart. By this prayer, I know I am saved. Thank you, Jesus, for saving me and making me a child of God.
I believe you have said this prayer from your heart. Congratulations! You will need to join a Bible-believing and Bible-teaching church in your area where they will teach you how to live your new life in Christ Jesus. I pray that you flourish like the palm tree and grow like the cedar of Lebanon. May you grow into Christ in all things and become all God wants you to be. I will be glad to hear from you. The Lord be with you.
T. O. Banso is the President, Cedar Ministry International, Abuja, Nigeria.
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