Revenge is one of the most basic human instincts. When we are wronged, we want to lash back at people and let them have what is coming to them. Go to any preschool and watch two and three year-olds play and you will quickly see that revenge is one of the first things we learn as humans.
Why then would God ask that we not take revenge for ourselves?
It is mine to avenge; I will repay. In due time their foot will slip; their day of disaster is near and their doom rushes upon them.”
Paul reiterates this as a fundamental Christian doctrine:
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.
Why All This Revenge?
So why doesn’t God want us to take revenge for ourselves? The answer is found in three words from the Deuteronomy passage. “In due time” is the key phrase that God uses to describe His vengeance. Go back to that preschool and watch Sally gain instant retribution for Johnny taking her toy away and you will understand our problem.
People are inherently bent toward revenge and fundamentally incapable of exercising it well. We want instant retribution. We want our revenge and we want it now. The only thing worse than our instant desire for revenge is when we let it foment over time. The Count of Monte Christo tells all about the evils of delayed revenge.
Giving Up Our Rights
When we give the right to vengeance over to God, though, He will act when He sees fit. He is the only one fair enough to give true justice. If each of us received the due penalty for our sins when we committed them, no one would escape the fires of hell, but because God is merciful and patient, we breathe today. And that is how the Lord does this.
God is patient. He is kind. He will let wickedness persist for a time while He offers them the opportunity to repent. As believers we must completely release our desire for revenge over to the Lord. We must never plan to take it, even if we don’t see God act. Some of us will never see that vengeance in this life.
9When He opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held. 10And they cried with a loud voice, saying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” 11Then a white robe was given to each of them; and it was said to them that they should rest a little while longer, until both the number of their fellow servants and their brethren, who would be killed as they were, was completed.
This is a reference to God’s final act of vengeance on behalf of His saints. Every single misdeed perpetrated upon God’s people will be answered for one day. The book of Revelation is primarily about God bringing justice to a world of injustice, and His primary concern is the vengeance due His people.
How great to be someone safe within Jesus’ arms! He will take vengeance for us, for He is our sole avenger. How scary to be one whom He takes vengeance upon. That is why Jesus told us this:
44But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
God’s perfection is in His great patience and forgiveness. We enter into that perfection with Him when we forgive and leave vengeance to Him.