One of the most difficult commands of God in the Bible is in Deutoronomy 32:35: “Vengeance is Mine… “
The standard is further elevated by His Son Jesus by telling us in Matthew 5:39 & 44 to “Turn the other cheek…” and to “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”
Who in this world can follow such an advocacy? How can you turn the other cheek after being insulted & taken advantage of? How can you love someone who hates you and is continuously planning your downfall?
But before we even consider those questions, let’s consider this one:
Why would an immensely powerful God demand this from His servants?
Why would God stand back as our enemies gang up against us, and tell us to forgive and love?
And as I sit on an old ship, listening to its noisy engine and the splashing of the ocean against its hull, overpowering counter-questions thunder in my mind.
If we can entrust our souls to Him, if we can trust that He can provide for us and heal us, if we can trust that He is a mighty God…
How can we not entrust justice and vengeance to Him?
If He can create such a wonderful universe and add such a diverse selection of life into it and then wrap it in the most complicated laws and systems – why can’t we believe that He can see the evil being done to us and is able take the appropriate steps to rescue us from our den of Lions?
Why is it so hard for us to trust that He knows better; that if He stays back and allows evil to happen, then it is for a purpose and it will eventually result in good? Why do we always know the best response and God doesn’t seem to know what He’s doing?
I think the Lord holds back vengeance for Himself because He wants us to trust Him fully. He understands that we don’t see all the angles in our lives and so He asks us to trust Him.
I don’t think He’s telling us to be weak and helpless. On the contrary, He’s asking us to be strong and courageous. He’s asking us to put our faith to the ultimate test.
Maybe, in the most difficult times of our lives, He’s actually giving us opportunities to be faithful.
If we understand this, then Jesus’ command to love even our enemies becomes a bit clearer. When I put the two commandments together, this is the message that I see:
“Leave justice and vengeance to Me. I can see what’s happening and I’m hurting too. I have a plan you can’t understand. Don’t worry, I will repay… But here’s what I would like you to do: Learn My definition of love. .. “
Some might say, “It’s easy for Him to say that, He’s up there! He doesn’t know how it feels!”
When God’s Son visited us, He became the ultimate example of faith and trust in the midst of ridicule and pain. Jesus was unjustly treated; a recepient of hate and envy; He was insulted, mobbed, spat at, slapped, stripped of His clothes, crowned with thorns and hit on the head with a stick over and over again; He broke no law & yet was given the worst manner of execution. All that in front of His family & friends. He was broken physically, emotionally and spiritually. He was fully dishonored and shamed. From being treated like a King, He was brought down hard to criminal status.
And yet He did nothing. The Prince of Heaven did not call for aid. The Messiah could have called for a revolt from all of Israel but He didn’t. Instead, He was even able to say, “Father, forgive them… They don’t know…” (Luke 23:34).
As He waited for His betrayal and arrest, He didn’t pray for a surgical air strike against His enemies or heaven’s royal guards to make a perimeter. Instead, He simply said: “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, Your will be done.” (Matt. 26:42 HCSB).
Why did Jesus hold back? Because He knew that His Father had a good plan and it can’t happen without Him. To the end, He believed that the Father could clearly see what’s going on and is in complete control.
“If Father chooses to do nothing, it must be for a good reason. I may not understand it fully from where I am, but Father does. That is enough for Me…”, I can almost hear Jesus say through the gospels.
So now we go back to the question in the beginning of this article: Who in this world can follow such an advocacy?
Here’s what I think is the answer:
Only the ones with the strongest faith. Only those closest to Jesus.