July 5, 2017 • Life for Leaders
For the LORD has a day of vengeance, a year of retribution, to uphold Zion’s cause. Edom’s streams will be turned into pitch, her dust into burning sulfur; her land will become blazing pitch!
When we read a chapter like Isaiah 34, we can easily feel confused, even distressed. God’s judgment on all nations, and Edom in particular, seems to come with such zeal and violence. How should we understand God’s vengeance? Does it give us the freedom to be vengeful people in our own lives?
No, not at all. In fact, there is one very practical implication of God’s vengeance. Since God will handle it, we don’t have to. Romans 12:17-19 makes this especially clear: “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord.” Because it is God’s right to avenge, we should not do it. Rather, we should seek to “live at peace with everyone.”
So if someone offends you at work or insults you at school, if someone besmirches your reputation by gossip or speaks words that hurt you, as one of God’s people, your calling is not to get even, but rather to love and forgive, even as Jesus both taught and exemplified.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
Have you ever wanted to get revenge on someone who wronged you? What did you do?
Are there people in your life whom you need to release to the Lord, rather than scheming how you might get even with them?
What helps you to “walk the second mile” with those who treat you poorly?
Gracious God, I must admit there’s much about your vengeance that I don’t quite fathom. But this much is clear: Vengeance is your business, not mine. When people hurt me, my calling is to forgive, not to hurt back.
I must confess, however, that there are times I want to get even with those who wrong me, at least for a while. Theoretically, I’m willing to forgive . . . but later on, after I feel better by inflicting a little pain of my own. Ironically and sadly, the people I tend to hurt in anger aren’t my enemies, but my dearest loved ones. If my wife does something that wounds me, somehow it feels good to let my silent rejection make her pay for a while. Or if somebody slights me in a meeting, I enjoy a subtle slight in return. Forgive me, Lord, for taking vengeance when I should leave it to you.
Thank you, gracious God, for your Spirit living within me, who helps me to return good for evil, love for hatred. May I live each day as an example of your grace. Amen.
Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online commentary: Specific Behavioral Principles to Guide Moral Discernment (Romans 12:9–21)
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.