2nd Thessalonians 1:5-7 ESV
Even if there was an obvious villain to my story, which there is not, would their punishment be mine to met out? Would I have the right to bring judgement down on them and say they need to suffer for their wrong doings, and how would that make me any more than the villain in their story? I can already hear the frantic typing in the comments section, 'Because they started it, they brought it upon themselves!' you cry indignantly! Maybe, assuming they did indeed do something to you, maybe they did bring it on themselves. That begs the question; who has the authority and the right to make them pay? Who knows the transgressor and the depths of their crimes to adequately judge and dictate a consequence that matched the offenses? Who but God?
Now I get it, not everyone reading this is Christian, but let's run with the idea that the God of the Bible is in fact real, (something I believe wholeheartedly) and that the person who you believe has done you wrong is in fact guilty of the offense and probably much more that they were never even caught for. Given these things why on earth would we want to be the ones to take up vengeance against our persecutors when the punishment of our all-powerful God would be both worse and more just then anything we could consider. We could just sit back and wait shouting out "Smite them oh mighty smiter!"
I suggest, that we are unwilling to relent to God's authority in retribution because we know that He, our all-powerful, merciful Lord... will forgive them just as He forgave us. He sees us in this moment as he saw Jonah whom He pulled from his cercumstances and forgave, then watched shaking His head as Jonah levied vengeance and unforgiveness on Nineveh. If you haven't read this book of the Bible lately you seriously need to go back and read it again after reading this message. (Book of Jonah) He, our God, knows our transgressions and He forgives us as we are all the villains in someone else's story.
I suggest that where we seek vengeance, God offers salvation. That is a pretty big statement so let me repeat that in case you were not paying attention: Where we seek vengeance, God offers salvation. When we look for villains, God seeks His children. Jesus told us: “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well." (Matthew 5:38-40) He is cautioning us against seeking vengeance for ourselves as they did under the laws of Moses in the Old Testament and instead offer them forgiveness and turn away trusting in God to be the arbitrator and dealing with those who have harmed us with love and mercy.
This by no means says to stand there and just take it becoming victims and letting others walk all over you. If someone hurts you, you walk away because forgiveness does NOT mean giving them permission to hurt you. My brother hurt me and my family a lot over the course of my life, admittedly there was often we had done things to warrant it, but after a time it came to the point where his presence would be toxic. So what do you do in a situation like this?
Some would say you are well within your rights to give him the boot, tell him to take off and cut all ties with you. The other side of the coin would say that he is family; you just have to accept him for who he is and suck it up. The former casts him out and in my brother's case, would have validated his feelings that he was worthless. The latter on the other hand would have built resentment and anger, eating away at the love remaining between us; with the added bonus of getting to live with a toxic relationship that hurt everyone involved. I wish I could say we made a correct, loving choice in this situation but the truth is we did both of these things at one point or another before we listened to what God had to say.
Straight up God says to love, no where in Scripture does it say we have to LIKE anyone, but to LOVE everyone. We forgave my brother but gave him his space, hoping and praying that one day we would return to us. That very thing did eventually happen and now broken relationships have begun to be mended. In his story we were the villains and he in ours, now we are family, together in love. This does not remove anything that was done, but we choose to love, to forgive as God does us.
This is all well and fine, but is poor comfort when we watch people seeming to get away with murder, and there is no repentance in sight! What about the people that step on us and don't seem to even care, or worse, do it with malice and intentional hurt? In all honesty you are not going to like the answer. We hold to the law of God and of man. The law of God says we forgive and love them anyway, even if we don't like them. The law of man says that if someone hurts us or breaks the law then it is the government that punishes them. In both cases it is not ours to seek vengeance and to do so not only puts us in the wrong, but robs us of the peace and serenity that forgiving another brings.
In the end it's not about blame, we can trust in God's justice. And in doing so, learn to forgive ourselves and let go of negative feelings and resentments. This allows us to love God, love others and love ourselves as He loves us.