Avengers [Please Do Not] Assemble!
Want to know something the Bible goes over and over and over again? I’m not talking about love or peace or forgiveness. I’m talking vengeance.
Don’t get me wrong. I like a good Marvel movie or book as much as the next gal. Sometimes more. Sometimes maybe too much. I might be watching Earth’s Mightiest Heroes as I write this. Who knows?
But seriously, take a look with me at what the Scripture says about revenge. It’s in there a shocking number of times.
“Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.” 1 Peter 3:9
Well, that’s just one instance of… Oh, wait.
“See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone.” 1 Thessalonians 5:15
Okay, so twice it’s not like… Hm.
“Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all.” Romans 12:17
I’d almost say Scripture is beating a dead horse about the subject, but it seems like it’s actually all about blessing the dead horse and repaying the dead horse’s evil with good. Wait, what?
Do we even struggle that much with the desire for revenge in our modern, everyday lives? When I think of the word vengeance, I think of the blood feuds or wrathful vendettas of old. But we come across vengeance every day. Sometimes we call it “getting even.” Or making sure someone “gets what they deserve.” Or even “standing up for myself.” To be clear, if someone has hurt you and remains unrepentant, it may be very necessary to place boundaries on that relationship. And if you are in an abusive situation, do not let anyone tell you you have an obligation to remain there--that's a hideous, destructive lie. But I’m talking about that very human, very dark instinct that is able to rationalize and even righteous-ize the thinking for slights big and small, “I am hurt. And in my anger, all I want is for you to hurt, too.”
“If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 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.’ To the contrary, ‘if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Romans 12:18-21
- Seeking to get even robs you of your peace.
- It reveals a lack of trust in the Lord.
- It obliterates an opportunity to show the love of Christ.
Did you notice the part where it says “If possible, so far as it depends on you”? It won’t always be possible to live peaceably with everyone. Where there is sin, you may be called to lovingly confront. Whether that person responds peacefully or with the same kind of love is up to them. But, beloved, “never avenge yourselves.” If this seems impossible, well, it is. This is something we need to ask Jesus to do in and through us. Every day. Every time a car cuts us off or a coworker whispers behind our backs.
Let Jesus be your example and your strength. That way, as He works in you and through you to take a bad situation and do something good, God gets all the glory.
“For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.” 1 Peter 2:21-23
So by all means, dress like Thor or Wasp or Ms. Marvel or any of the other Avengers for your costume parties this year. But when you do, use the opportunity as a reminder for your heart that the one we really want to look most like is Jesus.
Adapted from the Bible study companion to Turtles in the Road.