I have been noticing lately how vengeful our society has become. People so often just want to get even with those of have hurt them, or maybe just annoy them. It becomes a never-ending cycle.
Last weekend we watched a Kevin Costner movie called Open Range that involved some innocent people being killed for revenge. Right now we are watching The Winner Is . . ., a singing competition, and one of the singers just performed Before He Cheats (by Carrie Underwood) that involves a woman getting even with her cheating boyfriend by vandalizing his car. Dwight Yoakam goes even farther in What I Don’t Know, with a man threatening to kill his girlfriend if he finds out she’s been cheatin’.
The theme of revenge permeates our movies, television, and music. It is even prevalent in the news and social media “discussions” of the news, such as when some argue that George Zimmerman should have been convicted and others saying Trayvon Martin got what he deserved.
But I think the example that saddened me the most was a discussion I had with some mothers not too long ago. They both had teenage daughters and were complaining about how difficult they were. I commented that I was glad I had a son because I didn’t have to deal with that. One of the mothers said something to the effect that when her daughter is bad-tempered and surly, the only way to respond is to give it right back. It occurred to me that she has created a never-ending cycle.
Then yesterday during my prayer time I read Romans 12:17-21 (NLT), in which God shows us a better way:
Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.
Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say,
“I will take revenge;
I will pay them back,”
says the Lord.
“If your enemies are hungry, feed them.
If they are thirsty, give them something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap
burning coals of shame on their heads.”
Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.
I’ll admit that it can be easy to fall into the trap of believing revenge is the answer. But God’s way really is better, and if we all obeyed the command to leave it to God to pay back what is deserved (since only He can see into people’s hearts to know what they really deserve), then I believe the world would be a better place.
Some time ago I had an experience that illustrates how God’s way is better. Someone did something that was very hurtful to me and didn’t express any remorse. I then had the urge to do something that I knew would be hurtful to them. It wasn’t anything really terrible or “evil,” but I knew that it would hurt them and I kind of wanted to do just that to “get even.” But the Holy Spirit stepped in and reminded me that such payback was not what God has called me to do. I resisted the urge to get even, though I had several conversations in my head arguing that I should go ahead and give into my urge. Instead, I prayed about it, crying out to God to heal my hurt.
Then, several days later, the person who had hurt me unexpectedly apologized and promised to never do the hurtful thing again. Just as God promised, when I left the outcome to Him and instead of seeking revenge was kind to the person who had hurt me, I was able to “conquer evil by doing good.”