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September 12, 2021 | Doug Sauder
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"And when it was day, some of the Jews banded together and bound themselves under an oath, saying that they would neither eat nor drink till they had killed Paul.”—Acts 23:12 (NKJV)
Have you ever felt like the men in the above verse? So consumed with rage that you were willing to go to vindictive extremes? We can look at the above situation and scoff at its absurdity because it doesn’t apply to us . . . But what about when it does?
What about when we see an injustice? Was Moses right to kill the Egyptian who beat his countryman (Exodus 2:12)? Was Absalom justified in having his brother Amnon killed for raping his sister (2 Samuel 13)? Was Peter’s defense of Jesus warranted when his sword sliced off Malchus’ ear (John 18:10)?
Why not make it more relevant. When we see children struggling to breathe, their limp bodies cradled and rinsed down after a chemical warfare attack, how do we possibly marry injustice and forgiveness? Or how about when an injustice happens to us? When we think, Lord, this isn’t fair; I’ve been abused, violated, betrayed. Why?
Sadly, this sinful world guarantees these experiences. And while God commanded not to seek revenge or hold grudges, that we love our neighbors as ourselves (Leviticus 19:18), we all have those moments when we’d rather fall back on the “eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth” approach. Yet, that principle is an allocation for lawful justice, not vigilante justice. In greater light, Jesus complements the “eye and tooth” mindset with “turn the other cheek” and “go the extra mile” (Matthew 5:38–39).
Turning the other cheek and going the extra mile . . . at times, nothing in me can do this. There are those great injustices I cannot excuse. Yet, Jesus beckons, "Cast your burden on the Lord, and He shall sustain you” (Psalm 55:22 NKJV).
By taking my hurt or anger to Christ, I trust that vengeance is His (Romans 12:19). He conforms me into the image and likeness of His Son; in trust, I lay my bitterness at the cross. The cross where a dying Man cried, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34 NKJV).
Vindictiveness can never produce fruit. It can only produce more vindictiveness; defiling us with a root of bitterness (Hebrews 12:15). Author Philip Yancey describes it this way, “God can ‘handle’ my unsuppressed rage. I may well find that my vindictive feelings need God’s correction—but only by taking those feeling to God will I have the opportunity for corrections and healing.”
DIG: Read through Genesis 37–50. What can you learn about the life of Joseph? Contrast that with the life of Absalom (2 Samuel 13–19).
DISCOVER: What do you think is at the root of vindictiveness?
DISPLAY: Is it hard for you to lay aside your own fear and pride and let God be in control? If so, take that bitterness to Him now and ask Him to be your Judge, Defender, and Allocator of justice.
Lisa Supp lives in Utah and has served within the CCFL Web and Prayer Ministry since 2011. She also volunteers as an editor on the CCFL Prayer Wall and is a writer on the Communications Team. Retired from teaching, Lisa and her husband Ron volunteer at their local Calvary Chapel and share a passion for Scripture, apologetics, and education.