We are to overcome evil with good. Not with evil. Not with revenge. Leave that to God. Are you able to do that? Can you exercise enough self-control and faith to leave it alone? God has kept justice for himself and given us love and grace to deal with our issues…
1 The Lord said to Moses, 2 “Take vengeance on the Midianites for the Israelites. After that, you will be gathered to your people.”
3 So Moses said to the people, “Arm some of your men to go to war against the Midianites so that they may carry out the Lord’s vengeance on them. 4 Send into battle a thousand men from each of the tribes of Israel.” 5 So twelve thousand men armed for battle, a thousand from each tribe, were supplied from the clans of Israel.
6 Moses sent them into battle, a thousand from each tribe, along with Phinehas son of Eleazar, the priest, who took with him articles from the sanctuary and the trumpets for signaling.
17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 On the contrary:
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”
21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
I am uncomfortable with the vengeance of God. When God delivers his justice, whether in time or at the point of eternity, it is his to deliver. And I’m glad. Not only do I not want the responsibility of determining what justice looks like, my humanity limits my ability to think from God’s perspective and to understand divine justice.
Sure, I can become upset and offended just like you. I can get to the point that I want revenge toward others. My revenge, however, is focused on me. When I want revenge, I am focused on myself and my priorities – my judgements – my perspective.
When God judges, he is focused on his perfect perspective which knows all and sees all and understands all.
God’s justice on the Midianites in Numbers 31 was based, not on motivations of war and conquest, but rather on God’s judgement of Midian’s corruption and leading Israel astray. It’s easy to read the whole story and leave with a sorrowful heart for the Midianites. My first response is not to understand God’s perspective, but to empathize with the human perspective.
It is profound that when we read of God’s judgements in the Bible, we often struggle with how harsh the wrath of God is toward evil. When we feel the need to avenge ourselves, however, we don’t hesitate to turn the dial up to 10 (or 11) in our hatred toward those who have offended us. We ought to be careful with this. It’s not our job. It’s not in our wisdom and understanding to process justice objectively when we are involved.
That’s why judges and juries are objective and independent.
So what is our job? How do we handle vengeance in our own lives? We leave it to God. We trust that God knows and God sees and God has justice in his hands. The timing is God’s and the details are God’s. We are to be people of love, even toward those who present themselves as our enemies.
Paul’s instruction in Romans 12 is for us to overcome evil with good. Not with evil. Not with revenge. Leave that to God. Are you able to do that? Can you exercise enough self-control and faith to leave it alone? It’s hard when you are in the middle of it. I understand. God understands. His position doesn’t change, however. God has kept justice for himself and given us love and grace to deal with our issues.
See what happens if you answer each conflict and offense in the next day or week with love rather than vengeance. Ready? Go!