Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.Romans 12:14
Paul describes the kind of love we should show to a non-Christian world. Paul gives some very practical help on this. Love speaks well of its persecutors. That is getting right down to where the rubber meets the road, isn't it? That means you don't go around badmouthing people who are not nice to you. You don't run them down or speak harshly about them to others, but you speak well of them. You find something that you can approve, and you say so to others. I confess that is not my natural reaction. When somebody persecutes me, I persecute back! At least I want to. But this is what the Word tells us we don't need to do and we should not do. This applies to such practical areas as traffic problems. Have you ever been persecuted in traffic? It happens all the time. Somebody cuts you off, and you want to roll down the window and shout at them. But according to this, you are not supposed to. Now, this doesn't tell you what to call them, but it tells you to bless them, anyway.
In verse 17 Paul says,
Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the sight of everybody. Later, in verse 19 he adds,
Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written, Revenge is one of the most natural of human responses to hurt or injury or bad attitudes. We always feel that, if we treat others according to the way they have treated us, we are only giving them justice. We can justify this so easily.
It is mine to avenge, I will repay, says the Lord.
I'm only teaching them a lesson. I'm only showing them how I feel. I'm only giving back what they've given me. But any time you argue that way you have forgotten the many times you have injured others without getting caught yourself. But God hasn't forgotten. This always puts us in the place of those Pharisees who, when the woman was taken in adultery, were ready to cast stones and stone her to death. Jesus came by and said to them,
He that is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone, (John 8:7). That stopped them all dead in their tracks, because there wasn't a one of them who wasn't equally as guilty as she. They needed to be judged too. We must never carry out revenge, because we are not in the position of a judge. We, too, are guilty. We need to be judged. Therefore, Paul's admonition is,
Don't try to avenge yourself. You will only make a mess of it. The inevitable result of trying to get even with people is that you escalate the conflict. It is inescapable.
When I was in school in Montana, I used to watch the cows in the corral. They would be standing there peacefully, and then one cow would kick another cow. Of course, that cow had to kick back. Then the first cow kicked harder and missed the second cow and hit a third. That cow kicked back. I watched that happen many times. One single cow, starting to kick another, soon had the whole corral kicking and milling and mooing at one another, mad as could be. This happens in churches, too.
Paul gives two reasons why you should not avenge yourself: One is because God is already doing it.
Leave room for God's wrath. God knows you have been insulted or hurt or injured. He knows it and he is already doing something about it. Second, God alone claims the right to vengeance because he alone can work it without injury to all concerned. He will do it in a way that will be redemptive. He won't injure the other person, but will bring him out of it. We don't give God a chance when we take the matter into our own hands. Paul says that is wrong. It is wrong because we don't want that person to be redeemed; we want them to be hurt. We get angry because God hasn't taken vengeance in the way that we would like. Paul reminds us that God is already avenging, so we should leave him room.
Lord, teach me this hard lesson of blessing and loving those who have done me wrong. Thank you for loving me first in that same way.
Do we resist blessing any who mistreat us? Are we willing to leave the matters in God's hands so He may apply vengeance according to His wisdom? Will we thus leave room for His redemptive action?