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.
“Revenge is a dish best served cold.” This old saying about revenge goes back at least to the early 1800s. It means that taking revenge on someone is more satisfying when you allow a good amount of time to pass by first. From caper movies like Ocean’s 11 to westerns like Once Upon a Time in the West, the cold dish of revenge makes for a compelling plotline.
But there’s a downside to revenge. English philosopher Francis Bacon put it quite well. He wrote, “A man that studieth revenge keeps his own wounds green.”
God, of course, knows us far better than we will ever know ourselves. He knows that revenge is simply a broad opportunity for my old sinful self to run amok. In the name of righteous indignation, it’s an opportunity for my old sinful self to indulge in all kinds of toxic impulses, from bitterness and resentment to arrogance and self-absorption. All of which threatens to harden my heart. All of which threaten to pull me away from the only Savior you and I are ever going to have.
When Jesus walked this earth on our behalf, not once did he ever give in to the temptation to plot revenge on someone who had wronged him, not even as he hung on the cross. And because of Jesus’ perfect faithfulness, God has washed us clean through faith in his Son—and that includes even our poisonous thoughts of revenge against someone who has wronged us.
Cleansed and embraced by our Savior, you and I are now free. In the words of Francis Bacon, you and I no longer have to study revenge, keeping our own wounds green. Instead, you and I can bask in the peace of God that surpasses all understanding. We can entrust all things to our just and good God. Instead, you and I can get on with the business of proclaiming Jesus Christ with our lives.
Lord Jesus, when someone wrongs me, purge my heart of revenge. Fill me with the same spirit of forgiveness you have shown me. Amen.