Revenge is a bitter cup- this I learned upon the occasion that one of my collegiate peers urinated in my drinking cup.
During my college days, I ironically suffered many fraternal trials in a school without fraternities. Having suffered one too many indignities, I was soon hurrying down the dormitory hall, holding in hand this putrid chalice, seeking revenge. Having gained access to the perpetrator’s room, I poured out my wrath upon his bedding. My vengeance seemed complete- until it wasn’t, when it was quite vocally revealed that it was not his bedding but in fact his innocent roommate’s bedding…
And so ended my career in actively seeking revenge.
These days I don’t act out in vengeance very often. More often, I am long-suffering and ready to offer grace. Even so, I have found within myself the emergence of a new sort of revenge, far subtler and far more insidious than any kind of obvious act of revenge.
I call it: Passive Revenge.
Passive Revenge is vengeance dressed up in its Sunday best. It echoes the pious refrain, “Vengeance is mine…saith the Lord”, but in truth, believes nothing of the sort. Underneath its holy dress is found the voyeuristic joy of watching others be destroyed. The beauty of its thrills is that nothing is needed to attain them. Passive Revenge is defined by inaction, by pulling back, by abandonment, by leaving others to burn. It is the lovechild of Jonah and his shade tree; it is the very heart of Satan.
Passive Revenge forms a provocative temptation for many people. It is a cloaked dagger, hiding the assailant from his victim, but also hiding him from himself. It lurks about as the perfect temptation for the Christian. Abandoning those who have hurt him to their own self-destruction, the Christian can have his cake and eat it too. He can feel the virtue of abandoning vengeance to God, while simultaneously committing the vice of abandoning his fellow man to destruction. It is all evil, clean fun.
Passive Revenge can insert itself into a myriad of environments, whether within the home, the workplace, or the church. However, at this moment, its lure has arrived on the shores of the Christian’s relationship to the culture.
We live in a time when our nation has urinated in the Christian’s drinking cup. The culture has become decidedly post-Christian. The Church is Uncle Sam’s ex-girlfriend and all the hurt we feel makes us want to key his car.
But we don’t do that.
We don’t do that because we have that verse about not taking vengeance rolling around in our heads. But like that ex-girlfriend, we still have some options. Seeing as America thinks they’ll be fine without us, maybe we’ll just show them. Maybe we’ll just leave and never look back. Maybe we’ll just hide in our homes and church buildings, wiping our hands clean of the whole thing. When they need community and national leaders, maybe we’ll just twiddle our thumbs and let them just see what they can come up with without Christ. We’ll let them figure out what it means to stare into the Sun.
But if we do that, if we abandon American to her vices, we have to get real with ourselves. We have to admit that we are lying to ourselves and lying to the World when we say that we believe vengeance belongs to the Lord. The truth of matter is that we are taking passive revenge. We are stepping back and letting our nation burn. It is not commensurate with what Paul does in 1 Timothy 1:20 when he hands over wayward believers to Satan; America is not believing. Handing over America to destruction is abandoning those who are lost to being lost. It is definitively anti-evangelical.
We are not God. We do not possess the authority to give people up to destruction (Rom. 1). Our only authorized task is to do is what Christ did for us (Rom. 5:8, 1 John 4:19). We have been given the task of going to people who are sinners and who hate us. And while we don’t need to wring our wrists or twist arms to try to get others to accept Gospel, we have nevertheless been called to show love to our enemies, whatever their response.
We stand as Christ, and carry his contempt and compassion.
"O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!” and “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.”
Vengeance is not mine…it belongs to God. May we remember this in the days that lie before us.