“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.'” Romans 12:14-19
Vengeance is a very common movie theme. The hero has had a great wrong done to him; usually, his wife or family has been brutally murdered and the story line is how the main character gets revenge by killing the evil perpetrator(s) in a most satisfying manner; think Charles Bronson. Or, a woman has been terrifyingly raped and abused, and she exacts “perfect” revenge on the rapist(s); a very common theme which never seems to get old in the movies. Vengeance sells. But, is the story-line that true to real life? In some rare cases it is, but in many, many others the crime goes unavenged, or is resolved by the authorities in less satisfactory ways than the aggrieved would envision. The Bible would lead the Christian to an other-worldly means of receiving justice than exacting revenge to resolve those matters unjustly perpetrated on you, all the way from a slight to the most grievous offenses.
“Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” What does this from God’s mouth teach you about daily living, in the set thinking of your mind and the nature of your attitude? How often is vengeance stirring within your heart from the slightest wrong to the most devastating one? How quickly vengeance rears its head in our thinking as we go through our daily routines. It is a pattern in our flesh and in our struggle with sin to think of the other driver on the road, a family member or our neighbor, or a stranger in a combative sense in which we need to “avenge” a perceived or genuine wrong. Such “heart-thinking” obliterates the immediate prior instruction to “vengeance is mine, I will repay”; instruction such as “live in harmony with one another” and “as much as it is possible live peaceably with all,” or “never be wise in your own sight” and “repay no one evil for evil.”
Such thinking is really an attitude; it is a mind-set, or preferably a “heart-set,” rather than a knee-jerk response in the split-moment of grievance. Unless the mind or heart can be settled in the instruction of the Lord prior to the grievance manifesting itself, it normally will not happen. Our hearts need to be prepared to receive persecution before it comes; we need to be expecting wrongs, slights and injustices before they happen. Why? Because they are going to happen. It is a promise. And a righteous and honorable response is given from the mouth and heart of the much persecuted One, the Lord Jesus.
The Lord’s thinking is revolutionary. It follows no natural pattern of behavior. It rises far above the “madding crowd” that permeates a fallen world. It is so out of character that it draws notice from a watching world. It presents a very clear witness to others that yours is an other-worldly behavior which speaks volumes and draws questions as to how such is possible; a great opportunity to present the “suffering servant” who willingly went to an unjust cross for your sin and mine; presenting him genuinely as the only one who can transform their life, offering them a reward of eternal life.
I do not think there is a more penetrating and powerful witness to the world than to suffer unjust persecution honorably as the Lord would have you, in this manner which he gives as reminiscent of himself. This can be made evident over and over in the most minimal slights, or in the most grievous affront or injury. Being offended has become a cottage industry. Everyone is busy about offenses perpetrated on them. But even the greater damage is done within the spirit by embittered feelings of grievance unavenged. How vastly different is the attitude of one who is truly a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ.
However, it will not become a part of your character unless you have done due diligence in your heart and mind with the Lord prior to persecution coming upon you. You must “put on” the Lord Jesus Christ, acquiring by faith and obedience his character as a mind-set or heart-set, a nurtured and fixed attitude that is gracious in the face of all personal injustices. “Put him on” before you ever come into the realm of more and continuing persecution.
Is this possible? Only if you take the Lord’s words seriously. He says, “How can you call me Lord and do not do the things that I say?” Furthermore, he says, “Many will say to me on that day, Lord, Lord, did we not…….and then I will say to them, depart from me, I never knew you.” His words are serious and intended to be life and character transformative. You must have ears to hear him, and then do them. Make them a mind and heart-set type of response to a world which is by its very nature a sinful world; remembering that greater is He that is in you, than he who is in the world. Manifest this greater power in the attitude which tells the world exactly who you are.
But remember too, God is just. He promises, “I will repay.” And that He will do, where it is justly warranted. How good it is that all of it is in His capable hands. Be content with His justice, both for us (His grace is sufficient) and for our true enemies.
“I would not have the restless will that hurries to and fro, seeking for some great thing to do, or secret thing to know; I would be treated as a child, and guided where I go.”
(2nd verse of Anna Waring’s hymn, “Father, I Know that All My Life,” 1850)
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