“Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. . . . never avenge yourselves . . . Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:17, 19, 21, ESV)
The World of God may have been written many centuries ago, but it is just as relevant today. When we follow its principles, the Bible works in any situation, any culture, and any age group.
God’s Word is really a guidebook for life. But, just like those instruction manuals that come with things we purchase, we don’t always read (or follow) the directions. We’d rather fumble along, trying to figure it out on our own. After all, we’re smart. We’ve got this. Or so we think.
Part of God’s instruction manual tells us how to respond when someone does us wrong. Our first impulse may be to allow anger and harsh words to spew out. Or we let our minds wander to ways we can get even— to pay them back for the way they treated us. Sweet revenge!
Is revenge really sweet? Or does it come with a price? We may find ourselves replaying the other person’s actions over and over in our mind, and this can lead to a lot of negative emotions. If we allow bad feelings toward that person to fester and grow, we are really the one who suffers. Wounds fester when infected with anger, bitterness, hatred, and plans for retaliation. As the infection grows, it poisons our system unless we disinfect the wound and allow it to heal.
The Perfect Example
Jesus Christ offers us the perfect example of how to respond to offenses and overcome evil with good. First Peter 2:23 tells us, “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” (ESV). In other words, don’t retaliate—forgive and let it go. Let God be the judge and allow Him to do what is right in His time and His way. Romans 12:19 warns “never to avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God” (ESV).
Yes, revenge may feel good for the moment—but it’s only for a moment. Research shows that eventually the vengeful person may begin to feel anxiety, remorse, and shame. Revenge, and the emotions it brings, depletes their energy. Confucius is quoted as saying, “Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves.” Acts of revenge hurt both people.
There is a better way, a sweeter way than revenge. Matthew 5:44 gives us a short, but effective, four-step pattern that will enable us to overcome evil with good.
“But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you” (NKJV).
(Additional scriptures to study: Matthew 5:38-39; Matthew 12:35; Ephesians 2:10; I Peter 2:15; I Peter 3:9.)