I am a super overly protective friend. I also tend to be an overprotective sister and daughter. I just don’t do well at handling people who either hurt the people I love or say things about them that are hurtful. And many times, in seeking to protect the people I love, I have caused more problems than I have solved, generally because I go about it the wrong way.
Revenge is one of the most romanticized concepts in our culture. Taking vengeance for someone you love. Payback against the unfeeling machine of commercialism or the corporate world. It’s in almost every movie, exalted high on a pedastal that it should be the ultimate goal in any relationship, to hurt the ones who hurt you or to hurt the people who have hurt people you love.
It’s my first instinct to jump up and defend my loved ones immediately, regardless of what they have done or said that might have been hurtful. And when someone hurts someone I love, it’s my first response to jump in and hurt that person back. I mean, after all, there are a lot of ways to take revenge on people in today’s world. You don’t actually have to hurt anyone physically. There’s a marvelous little thing called Facebook with which you can verbally tear down someone’s reputation, especially if you have a gift with words.
But every time I am tempted to go after someone for hurting somebody I love, I usually get this nagging feeling in the back of my brain. Because it’s not my place.
And this is the verse God always uses to cool my overprotective temper off:
30For we know the one who said, “I will take revenge. I will pay them back.” He also said, “The Lord will judge his own people.” 31 It is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
I’m sorry, but this is a terrifying verse.
It’s one thing to fear retribution from another person. But to be on the receiving end of retribution directly from God? Think about that.
What could I do to a person who has hurt me or someone I love? I could say mean things about them. I could lead a campaign to convince others to believe lies about them. I could hurt them physically. I could end his or her life. (I’m totally speaking metaphorically, you realize. The thought of me doing anything harmful to some other person is kind of laughable actually, no matter what they’ve done, seeing that I can’t even point fingers at people who deserve it most of the time.)
But what could God do to someone? Gosh. I don’t even want to think about it.
Now I know someone would say that God is a God of love and He would never take revenge on anyone. Well, that’s true. God is absolute love. But the thing about Someone Who is absolute is that we who are not absolute can’t understand Someone Who is. God is also absolute wrath.
And, honestly, I don’t think that God has taken revenge yet. He will. We just won’t be here to see it.
But there’s a specific part of this verse I want to focus on.
“The Lord will judge His own people.”
Again. Terrifying. This isn’t talking to people who don’t believe. His people is us, those of us who believe in Christ and follow Him. Now is this verse saying that God will judge us and punish us and send us to hell?
No. If you believe in Christ, there is nothing you can do that will cause God to turn His back on you. But even God’s children do things that are wrong and need to be punished. And it’s up to God to judge for Himself.
The Amplified Version says, “The Lord will judge and determine and solve and settle the cause and the cases of His people.”
For those of us who are believers, God is watching us. God is paying attention to how we live our lives and how we treat others, and if we step out of line, you can know that He will judge how you are living and set you straight. Not in an eternal damnation sort of way, of course. We are already saved from that. But He may let you go through some things in your life to help you get your head on straight.
And for anyone who has been mistreated by a fellow Christian, you can believe that the God who is just is watching and won’t let His children get away with behavior that is unsuitable.
In either case, though, it isn’t our job to set things right. It’s not my job to jump in between God and one of His children to try to settle a problem in my own meager way. It’s not my job to jump between God and someone who needs to be chastized for their behavior. That’s neither my responsibility nor my right. How can I correct someone else when I’m just as guilty as they are?
In most circumstances, when someone hurts me or hurts someone I love, it is my job to sit back and pray and forgive that person and let God take care of it.