Retaliation is a natural response to unfair treatment, as when someone is hurtful in personal relations.
Christians injure others by wicked words (Prov 15:2, 4: “The mouth of fools pours forth foolishness…perverseness in it [the tongue] breaks the spirit”) or by the pain of gossip or slander (11:13: “A talebearer reveals secrets, but he who is of a faithful spirit conceals a matter”).
Personal revenge and “getting even” are strictly forbidden to Christ’s followers. Jesus said, “But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also…But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matt 5:39, 44NIV). Instead of demanding your personal rights or fairness, trust God for grace to endure injustice or cruelty.
Regardless of whether it is a political, business, or personal offense, we are generally prohibited from hurting any other person in proportion to how much we think they have hurt us. Peter wrote, “Do not return evil for evil or insult for insult, but instead bless others because you were called to inherit a blessing” (1 Pet 3:9 ).
Paul would reiterate this principle in Romans: “Repay no one evil for evil…If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord” (Rom 12:17–19).
The only thing to fear is being under the hand of God when He takes His vengeance. Nahum wrote, “God is jealous, and the Lord avenges; the Lord avenges and is furious. The Lord will take vengeance on His adversaries, and He reserves wrath for His enemies.” However, “The Lord is slow to anger and great in power, and will not at all acquit the wicked” (1:2–3a).
The problem with getting even is that we do not know the whole story, and in our anger, our response is likely to be exaggerated. Therefore, we cannot be just. “The wrath of man does not produce the justice of God” (James 1:20).
We can never determine what is fair or “even,” so we are to let God make those choices. Can you trust Him to know how to bring justice to every cruel or painful injustice that you experience?
“You know, dear Lord, when we are treated badly by others and have taught us not to get even. Only You have the wisdom to repay a sinner for his ways. Help me to remember that only You are God.”
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