Proverbs 20:22 Do not say, “I’ll pay you back for this wrong!”
Wait for the Lord, and he will deliver you.
Revenge is an honored tradition in Japan, One of the most famous and best-loved historical tales is The Storehouse of Faithfulness, known in English as The 47 Samurai. The central figures are honored for sacrificing their families and their lives to pay back a deadly insult to their feudal lord. This verse is the antithesis of that. Paul famously quoted Deuteronomy 32:35 to say, “Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord.” (Romans 12:19) The Bible is remarkably consistent! However, we have a very natural desire to pay people back for the bad they do to us. The problem is, that easily becomes a vicious cycle, and on the larger scale has generated wars throughout history. When we let God be in charge of our honor we escape that cycle, and instead enjoy the abundant blessings that He has prepared for those who love Him. Some conflicts, such as the Allied side of WWII, seem to have plenty of moral justification, but in contrast, the triggers for WWI seem from this perspective to have been almost entirely old-fashioned revenge. (Actually, the actions of the victors in that conflict planted the seeds of WWII by being so harsh on the Germans, but that is complicated enough to have fostered several books, so I had better drop the subject.) The whole point is to remember that God is God, and thus allow Him to be in charge of every area of our lives. Jesus discussed the ramifications of this in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5. That was so radical that we are still awed by it, and argue over whether it is even possible, when it could be said to be no more than an amplification of this verse.
I have never been particularly vengeful, but I have to admit that I lashed out at some people I felt were mean to me in school. When I felt slighted because of my lack of athletic ability or social acumen I tended to use words as weapons to ridicule them in return. I am definitely not proud of that! Much more recently, I have amazed some of my Japanese friends by declining to take a defensive posture, even, against someone who told some pretty vicious lies about me. I chose to let my life speak for itself, and let God defend me. I know I have far more peace as a result! I am always to speak the truth in love, knowing that Jesus is the Truth (John 14:6). Sometimes people will be offended by that, and sometimes cut to the heart. I am to leave that in God’s hands and never hurt intentionally. We have the proverb, “Revenge is a dish best served cold,” but life is far sweeter when we serve up warm helpings of God’s love and grace. The ultimate “revenge” is to turn an enemy into a brother!
Father, thank You for Your grace in liberating me from a vengeful attitude. May I indeed draw people into Your family by my words and actions, for their salvation and Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!