Tuesday, March 16

Revenge is overrated

Scripture: Numbers 31-32, Psalm 32, Matthew 16

Numbers 31:1–3 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.

Observation:

How sad that Moses’ final act was one of vengeance.  But it wasn’t his vengeance, but the Lord’s that was being carried out.  This raises all kinds of questions.  Does God take revenge on people?  Should we?  

First, I must remember that I know very little about this context: the culture, the history, the backstory here.  We read this story through our lens—our culture, history and backstory, which are all very different from theirs.  So I can’t be too quick to judge them or pretend I understand.  

Second, I know that God judges and His judgments are just, that His anger is His righteous response to evil and is the flip side of His love.  While this suggests there is more to the story than I know, it still leaves several difficult questions unanswered—like the deaths of children.

Third, I correct back to Jesus.  In Matthew 5:38-38 Jesus revokes an eye for an eye and instead tells us to love our enemies.  Paul, in Romans 12:19-21 specifically tells us not to take revenge, but to leave it to God.  We are to return good for evil, and by doing so, overcome evil with good.  

Is there a time for personal revenge?  I don’t think so.  I think it violates the teaching and example of Jesus.  

Is there a time for national revenge (like Israel took here)?  Very cautiously, I’d say there may be a time when a measured response is essential to stop evil.  (This leads to the whole concept of “just war”.)

Application:

For me as a Jesus’ follower, I can’t seek revenge.  Jesus and Paul are clear that our response is to return good for evil, and by doing so, overcome evil with good.  

This passage in Numbers (and others like it) may be fodder for a discussion of national responses, but don’t support the idea of personal vengeance, especially for a Jesus’ follower.

If someone does you wrong, do them right!  Overcome evil with good!  Besides, revenge is overrated.  You really never “get even”—it’s not satisfying.  But seeing good come out of evil is very rewarding.

Prayer: Lord, help me to follow Your teaching and example, and when someone does me wrong, rather than seeking to get even, help me overcome evil with good!