19 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.”
When persecution comes, believers are to remember that God loves them. It is important to remember the love of God when our native instinct is to retaliate against those who do us wrong.
never avenge yourselves,
Christians are not to pursue retribution against others who have wronged them. It is not our business to exact justice.
but [strong contrast] leave it to the [special] wrath of God,
David chose to leave vengeance against Saul in the hands of God when he could have taken revenge himself. He left retaliation to God.
The principle is to give place to God’s wrath. We are not to provide a room for personal retaliation like we would for a guest who stays overnight with us. We are to turn over personal vengeance to God. We need to move over and let God’s wrath takes its course.
There is the factor of forbearance in this dynamic. We make room for God to work and for the law of divine retribution to grind itself out. Neither do we give place to the Devil to do his work.
Eph 4:26-27, 26 “Be angry, and do not sin”: do not let the sun go down on your wrath, 27 nor give place to the devil.
for it is written,
God promised to avenge His people; the following phrases are an allusion to Deuteronomy 32:35.
“Vengeance is mine,
Vengeance is God’s prerogative. It is part of His government of things. Christians cannot play God or usurp God’s authority. We cannot govern the universe. If we take revenge on others, we assume God’s role of dealing with those who might persecute us. God’s justice is not retaliatory in nature, but He operates with perfect knowledge of the problem.
I will repay,
The prerogative of revenge is God’s because He knows all the facts. We place the fate of our opponents in the hands of God. He will deal with a situation as it truly is. We do not take the law into our own hands. Redress of a problem could easily come out of personal resentment and not the facts in the case.
says the Lord.”
The Lord puts His authority on the line for the principle of non-retaliation.
A mature Christian leaves his enemies in God’s hands and does not feel the need for personal vendetta.
Following the principle of this verse is especially difficult when we are under personal attack. In this context we must view God’s action against our enemies as something legitimate and our vengeance as finite. We do not have enough information as finite creatures to execute full justice.
Tit-for-tat would worsen the problem. A mature person does not keep throwing fuel on the fire. A fire will die down for lack of fuel.
Revenge has a tendency to boomerang. The person who holds resentment hurts himself in the longer run. We can nurse a grudge until it becomes a full-blown resentment. A biblical Christian repudiates revenge and deliberately accepts undeserved suffering. No one ever truly forgives another person without accepting a loss or a penalty.
If we take care of our attitudes, our character will take care of our interests. God is absolutely just in dealing with our interests—“shall not the judge of all the earth do right?” (Ge 18:25).