Never, ever take vengeance unto yourself. Never get up into the Judge’s chair.
Don’t ever take vengeance—not against your spouse who was insensitive and uncaring after you’d had a hard day. Not against your sister who borrowed your favorite pair of jeans again without asking. Not against that guy at work who spread untrue gossip about you. Not against the parent who has disrespected you again or the child that has made your life unfairly hard. Not even against that person that committed a crime against you.
“Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Give careful thought to do what is honorable in everyone’s eyes. If possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Friends, do not avenge yourselves; instead, leave room for God’s wrath, because it is written, Vengeance belongs to me; I will repay, says the Lord”
– Romans 12:17–19 (CSB)
God will bring into account every sin. Not one sin will go unrequited! Every sin ever committed will be paid for by the person in hell or Jesus on the cross. Thus, your vengeance against evil is not required.
Practically, this means we never take on ourselves the responsibility to get personal justice; and, even when we look to the government to restore justice (which they should!), we do so with love and a desire for restoration in our hearts for those who wronged us.
That’s difficult because when someone has wronged you, few things feel like they would be more satisfying than to see them pay.
But when you understand the gospel, even when you allow the government systems God has established to do their work, there’s a part of you that is weeping when they’re suffering, and you want them to repent and be restored.
When someone has wronged you, few things feel like they would be more satisfying than to see them pay. But when you understand the gospel, there’s a part of you that is weeping when they’re suffering, and you want them to repent and be restored.
One of the most beautiful displays we’ve seen of this in modern times came in the aftermath of the terrible shooting in Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, South Carolina. One of the men whose wife was killed by Dylann Roof told him in the courtroom at his trial, “I forgive you, son. And my family forgives you. But we would like you to take this opportunity to repent. Repent. Confess. Give your life to the One who matters the most, Jesus Christ, so that he can change it and change your attitude.”
I read an article recently in which this man was asked if, four years later, he regretted his words, if he thought his reaction was overly naïve. He said, “I always get asked that. And people want to know why, even if he did repent, why I would ever forgive the man who murdered my wife? My answer to them is always the same. I chose to forgive the racist killer because I believe and trust God’s Word when he tells me that vengeance is his to repay, not mine. I need not avenge the vile deeds of Dylann Roof myself. ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ Scripture promises me.”
When you stay out of the Judge’s chair, like this man, it is as much about your own heart as it is the other person. That Judge’s chair is too big for you, and it will corrupt you if you try and sit in it for a couple of reasons.
First, you don’t know everything about the situation. You don’t know that person’s motives, so it’s almost impossible for you to do judgment rightly.
Second, you have sin of your own to deal with, and there’s no way for you to execute justice in a way that avoids selfish anger.
Taking upon yourself the responsibility for getting justice is like putting on Gollum’s ring in The Lord of the Rings. It’s an incredible power that darkens the soul of all who try to wear it.
It is always better to leave judgment to God, who will certainly execute justice perfectly.
In the meantime, you can rest knowing that God promises to turn all things, even the bad actions of others, for good.