Eternal Savior Lutheran Church

A member of the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod

2688 North Park Drive
Lafayette, CO 80026
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September 25 – Beware Of The Desire For Payback

“Be not a witness against your neighbor without cause, and do not deceive with your lips. Do not say, “I will do to him as he has done to me; I will pay the man back for what he has done.” Proverbs 24:28,29

Devotional Thought For The Day

We considered the first verse last week.  Its proximity to the warning against taking vengeance upon those who have “harmed us” calls to mind one of the easiest and most tempting ways in which we “pay back” the offenses others have committed against us [whether real or imagined], and that is through gossip, including exaggeration and lying about the “wickedness” of our neighbor.  Recently we read as our Epistle Lesson in worship the severe rant in the book of James regarding the wickedness of our tongues [James 4:1-10].  It is good to sit quietly and really meditate upon his observations and warnings – to consider not only the great harm our tongues can produce but also God’s promised response to such evil.

The desire for vengeance, and our resolve to exact it upon our neighbor, is expressed as just the opposite of the Golden Rule.  Instead of “doing unto others as we would have them do unto us” [Matt. 7;12], we desire and determine to “do to him as he has done to me.”  But if we have concluded that what he has “done to me” is quite wicked and evil and needs punishment, then we have ourselves determined to do and admitted doing great wickedness and evil against our neighbor – which we agree deserves punishment.  Hmmmmm.  This idea of paying back includes some assumptions:  first, that I am a proper judge of “justice” even when it includes my interests, second, that I have authority to impose such “justice” on others and am somehow “justified” in doing evil, and third, that mercy, forgiveness, and bearing with the offenses of others has no place [at least not in my heart and in my behavior].

While the first two assumptions are quite dangerous and damnable, it is the last assumption that is most telling and most terrible.  You remember what the Lord Jesus asserted: “Judge not, that you be not judged.  For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.”  [Matt. 7:1,2]  So the person who chooses to “do to others what they have done to you” rejects God’s gracious forgiveness and mercy, and demands that God judge them according to what they have done – and by this form of “revenge” they have already admitted committing the same wickedness and evil that was done to them.  In view of all of our great sin this is a sure formula for personal disaster.  Worst, it is certainly a rejection of God’s gracious mercy, forgiveness, grace, and compassion – and reveals a hardness and darkness of heart that no decent person would ever desire.  So, such desire for vengeance, parading as a “good” desire for “justice,” is actually among the darkest evils within us.

There is a place for justice, and God has granted public offices in government to implement and impose justice.  It is a shame when this work is muddled, so that good is not rewarded and evil is not punished, but rather emboldened and encouraged.  However, God is clear in regard to personal vengeance:  “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.'” [Rom. 12:19] In contrast to vengeance, God’s Word encourages us to have soft hearts toward others, even those who offend and harm us: “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” [Eph. 4:32]  When we consider our own sins, the harm that we have done to others, especially with our gossipy wagging tongues, surely this kindness and forgiveness is what we would have others do unto us.  Thankfully, this is precisely what God has done unto us in giving us His Son as our Savior, whose blood cleanses us from all sin.  We are truly blessed when His love enables us, from the inside out, from the heart, to “be imitators of God, as beloved children.” [Eph. 5:1]

Prayer For The Day

Dear Lord Jesus, You understand how indignation naturally arises in our hearts and minds from the pain inflicted upon us by the evil of others, and also our desire for vengeance. We should understand from this Your indignation over our own sins.  Help us to live in Your gracious forgiveness, mercy, and love by faith – that our hearts might also be softened.  Enable us to grow in love, Your love, that we also might be kind to others, tenderhearted, forgiving them, as imitators and practitioners of Your great love for us.  Amen.