Getting Revenge on Revenge

October 6, 2016

by Erin Bird

I don't know about you, but I've been loving this autumn weather we've been experiencing here in Waverly. Warm sun, cool breeze, changing leaves... loving it!

The cooler weather, though, means Summer is gone until 2017. (I guess all good things must come to an end.) Likewise, we have come to an end here on the blog. No, this weekly blog isn't going away, but our time in Romans 12 is coming to a close.

We've spent the past several weeks walking through Romans 12, discovering what a follower of Jesus should look like. And this week we finish out the chapter. Here are the final five verses:

Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, "'Vengeance is mine, I will repay,' says the Lord." To the contrary, if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:17-21 ESV)

This week's passage is one of those sections of Scripture which feels good when you read it, but doesn't feel so warm-and-fuzzy when you try to actually do it. Let me give you a very recent example.

Revenge in the Water

A couple hours after writing the content above, I went to do my swim workout at The W. It was 11:55 am. The three swimming lanes were all occupied, but the "open" water was empty. An aqua exercise class was scheduled to start at 12:05 pm, so I had 10 minutes in the open water before I needed to force one of the other swimmers to share a lane with me.

With two minutes left, I was on the last lap of my set, when suddenly there was a lady water jogging directly in front of me. No one else was in the open water. She had plenty of space to tread water, but she was right in my lane. I came up on her so fast, it startled me and I had to halt immediately before I accidentally ran into her.

As I pulled up, she brusquely says, "Our class is starting. You need to leave this area."

Now, keep in mind there was no one else in the pool who had arrived for the class yet. There were still two minutes before the class was to begin. I was on my last lap (which would take me 20 more seconds to finish). But rather than give me a chance to move on my own, this gal chose to put herself right in my way.

As I moved to a lane, I found myself fuming over the passive/aggressive approach of this lady. She could have gotten hurt. I could have gotten hurt. She could have simply asked the lifeguards to request that I move or she could have simply tread water on the side of me so I would see her and know the class was about to begin. However, she confronted me as if I was trespassing on her private property, committing a grave offense.

So there I was swimming, fuming over this incident, when it happened. My fuming shifted to dreaming. I began to envision myself splashing this lady in the face with water. I began to wish I hadn't seen her and actually hit her so she would learn her lesson. I'm embarrassed to say I even began dreaming about doing a cannonball right in the middle of their aqua jogging, aggressively getting revenge against her aggressiveness.

You Can Never Get Even

Isn't that how it goes? When someone hurts you, you want to "get even". You want the other person to feel what you felt.

But rarely when you "get even" does the other person have a change of heart. Usually it just gets them angrier and the cycle continues as they seek to get revenge on you.

I think that's why Paul tells us in Romans 12:17-21 to take a different approach. Rather than get revenge (paying evil for evil), overcome evil with good.

Because that's exactly what Jesus did.

"Getting Even" Like Jesus

You and I were born into sin. We were naturally bent to commit offenses against God. But rather than "get even" with us for our sin, Jesus heaped "burning coals" of love onto us, overcoming our evil with the amazingly good, sacrificial act of dying in our place on the cross.

If we are going to love like Jesus loved, then we have to overcome the evil of those around us through good. That sort of good comes through the Gospel.

So let me encourage you: Don't let revenge get the best of you. Instead, get revenge on revenge. Cut revenge off at the knees by not retaliating at your spouse, kids, co-workers, or mother-in-law.

Instead, overcome evil with good. Invite your enemy over for a meal. Buy the person who hurt you a drink. Shock and surprise them.

Because maybe, just maybe, your "enemy" will be so overcome by the goodness of Christ in you that he or she will stop their evil ways and find and follow Jesus.

At least that's what I hope for my aggressive water jogging friend. 😉

Erin Bird Lead Pastor - Riverwood Church

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