Thus saith the Lord.
It’s a phrase from the Bible that most Christians and probably even many non-Christians recognize. We see many times in the Old Testament instances where the nation of Israel went through a cycle of being in God’s favor, rebelling and then facing the consequences handed down from God. People being held accountable and facing the consequences for their actions is something God definitely has an opinion about. But is God’s opinion on vengeance the same as ours today?
Fast forward to more recent times. During August of 2014 and the following months we found this country in an uproar. A young man in Ferguson Missouri had just been shot by a police officer in what many people around the nation say was a racially – motivated hate murder due to the fact that the young man was unarmed. Protests ensued for many months after that day and most protestors wanted the same thing, vengeance for the killing of Michael Brown.
We tend to react that way a lot. Whether it be shuddering at the sight of ISIS brutally murdering innocent people in the middle east, laughing at Alex Rodriguez getting caught in one of the biggest baseball scandals of my generation, turning our national back on Ray Rice as he was being outcast by the NFL for hitting his wife, or our cries for Justin Bieber to be deported each time he gets arrested. We, like God, also have an opinion on vengeance, but I would suggest it doesn’t exactly line up with God’s views of vengeance.
God from the beginning of time has held his creation accountable for their actions and at times has caused terrible consequences for those who would oppose Him. The Bible is replete with instances where God destroyed entire cities who strayed from His will. God even destroyed the whole world with a flood because of its evil nature. But does God’s stance on vengeance give us the right as His followers to act as his earthly agents of vengeance? I would say not always.
Now, granted there are instances where natural consequences will come about and we may be a part of those natural consequences for someone. But there’s a difference in being a part of God’s plan of restoration to bring all humanity back to Him and seeking out opportunities to flex our spiritual muscle in the form of retribution for those we think are acting in contrary to God’s will.
I would argue that God’s will for His followers is often the opposite of retribution and vengeance, which is grace and mercy. How often do we shrug it off when someone cuts us off in traffic? How often do we think it’s nice to see people get an appropriate punishment? How much do we hate it when people we think are terrible human beings seem to be living flourishing lives?
It’s human nature to want justice but sometimes justice won’t happen on this side of eternity. We have to be ok with that fact. I’m not always ok with it, and I’m willing to bet many of you reading this aren’t ok with it. We just have to trust that God is just and that we will all be held accountable for the good or bad things we do in this life (Romans 14:12). My challenge to you is can you live with grace and mercy not only on your lips but genuinely in your heart? That’s easier said than done but I believe we would all do well to let God be God and handle the reconciliation of the world and for us to focus on loving each other instead of trying to spiritually put people on trial. So today I ask you, are you a source of grace or ridicule to those around you?