Have you ever longed for vengeance?
I don’t know about you, but sometimes vengeance sounds sweet. When people have said or assumed terrible things about me, when people have emotionally hurt me, and even when I have been physically hurt by someone, my first reaction is to want vengeance. There is something within all of us that wants people to feel the same pain and hurt that we are experiencing. Sometimes, vengeance sounds sweet.
One day, out of the blue, I started getting text messages from a number that I did not recognize. At first it was just dumb things like “what are you doing.” But they quickly escalated when I didn’t play along. This anonymous person started texting me that I needed to go back to where I came from, they started calling me a “beaner” and a “wet back,” and they even started making threatening and offensive remarks about my family.
To say that I was livid in that moment is an understatement. I wanted to yell, I wanted to cry, I wanted to punch someone, I wanted to know who this person was. Luckily, I was at a camp training event so I had to pretend like these texts didn’t bother me. After about an hour, these texts stopped and I never heard from this person again.
I thought I had let it go, but one day, I found out that the anonymous texts were coming from the best friend of an ex-girlfriend (at the time of the texts, she and I were dating). This person was not happy that his friend was dating a Hispanic guy, so he decided to make these comments at me perhaps to try to scare me away.
When I found out who it was, I wanted vengeance. I wanted my ex to feel the pain of what I had felt because she knew about the texts and did nothing to stop them. I wanted the guy who was texting me to know that he was not welcome to even be around my presence, because I would blow up at him. I was in so much pain that I was longing for vengeance.
Now, I don’t know if you have noticed by now or not, but I like to be honest in these devotionals. So let me be honest.
In the Twelfth chapter of Romans, the disciple Paul talks about vengeance. He mentions that we should never avenge ourselves, to not repay anyone evil for evil, and to bless those who hurt us. He goes on to say this: if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
To this day, I wonder what would have happened if I had longed for goodness rather than vengeance. What if instead of saying I never wanted to be around that guy I would have said I wanted the opportunity for him to get to know me and me know him? Maybe in doing so we would have both seen that we had a lot in common and could probably actually be friends. Maybe if instead of making those involved feel so guilty, I could have acknowledged how hard it was for my ex to let those messages happen because she was probably between a rock and a hard place. Maybe instead of longing for vengeance, I could have offered goodness.
You see, goodness has a way of breaking down walls and bringing enemies together. Vengeance, on the other hand, just makes the walls taller and creates more anger between enemies. Goodness helps humanize our enemies. Vengeance makes others an object worthy of our frustrations and anger. Goodness brings out the good in each other. Vengeance brings out the worst.
I don’t know about you, but I have longed for vengeance and I did not like the results. I have also longed for goodness and I love that it brings out not just the best in me, but the best in my enemies as well.
So I want to challenge you today.
Maybe you have some sort of feud with a friend or family member or co-worker. How can you respond with goodness? It will bring out the best in you and in them and you will be able to move forward together. Maybe you are in a struggling relationship. How can you respond with goodness. Maybe you have some past grudges. How can you respond with goodness.
Whatever vengeance you long for, respond with goodness instead. I know that responding with goodness makes no sense, it goes against the way society tells us to respond and will confuse the heck out of people. But I would venture to say that if we are honest with each other, what we really long for is for a reconciliation in the situation and not really vengeance. If that is the case, then the way we need to respond is through goodness. As Paul says, “vengeance belongs to God.” It is our job to offer goodness. (BTW, I hate to burst your bubble, but I am convinced that vengeance for God also involves goodness).
I will share the words from scripture one more time: Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
May you overcome the vengeance in your hears with good. And in doing so, may you come to know the peace that comes with offering goodness to this world.
Together on the journey,