Violence, vengeance and hatred plague our nation. I have had enemies, but I don’t try to kill them! However, I can’t get past my own wounds. I have spent my life with a person who is angry, abusive, slanderous and deceitful. I don’t know if I can go another day without retaliation.
I know as a good Christian, I shouldn’t want to get revenge, but my enemy fills my thoughts and haunts my dreams. In every dream I tried to kill him. How do I get past these vengeful thoughts?
When we get wounded, our natural response is to get even.
Who is your enemy?
Our ability or inability to handle the trauma of being wronged can make or break us as Christians.
We have a classic case of how to deal with revenge from David who has been wronged by his superior, King Saul.
David was anointed by Samuel to be king. He then returned to tending sheep. Some time later, the young teenager slaughtered Goliath the Philistine and scored a great victory for the Israeli army. He joined Saul’s court and fought in his army.
As David the conqueror entered Jerusalem, women cried, “Saul killed his thousands, David his tens of thousands.”
Saul was enraged, so he tried to kill David.
David became a fugitive, pursued mercilessly by Saul. He lost everything: his place in the king’s court, his wife, his dearest friend Jonathan and his self-respect.
How does mistreatment evolve into revenge?
INJURY; VULNERABILITY, DEPRAVITY: When we mix all three together, we get REVENGE.
Injury-Someone harms me. I have been personally injured.
Vulnerability – I’ll lie in wait until he’s in a vulnerable position, and then,
Depravity - I get even. It’s the nature of our humanity.
Cain and Abel’s story is the perfect illustration. Cain was injured when God accepted Abel’s sacrifice and rejected his. So when his brother was vulnerable, he killed him. The word is to cut the throat. Cain brutally murdered his unsuspecting brother. That’s depravity. That’s the nature of the beast.
In 1 Samuel 24 and 26, we find David presented with two golden opportunities to rid himself of Saul, his mortal enemy. David had the opportunity to shorten the days of his suffering and claim the throne that God had promised to him. After years of being hunted by Saul, David found Saul relieving himself in the back of a cave. David’s soldiers offered to kill his demented enemy. David entered the cave, intent upon ridding himself of his would-be assassin. But then the spirit of God convicted him. He cut off a piece of the wicked king’s robe and confronted Saul the next morning:
1 Samuel 4: 8-12:
These words of David persuaded his men not to kill Saul.
“After Saul had left the cave and gone on his way, David came out and shouted after him, ‘My lord the king!’ And when Saul looked around, David bowed low before him.
Then he shouted to Saul, ‘Why do you listen to the people who say I am trying to harm you? This very day you have seen it isn’t true. For the Lord placed you at my mercy back there in the cave, and some of my men told me to kill you, but I spared you. For I said, ‘I will never harm him—he is the Lord’s chosen king.’ See what I have in my hand? It is the hem of your robe! I cut it off, but I didn’t kill you! Doesn’t this convince you that I am not trying to harm you and that I have not sinned against you, even though you have been hunting for my life?”
“The Lord will decide between us. Perhaps he will kill you for what you are trying to do to me, but I will never harm you.” Living Bible
Wise Solomon penned these words in Proverbs 16:7:
“When a man’s ways are pleasing to the Lord, he makes them his enemies live at peace with him.” NIV
But forgiving an enemy may not mean that you are reconciled forever.
Saul went to his home, and David and his men went to the stronghold. David didn’t go with Saul to his home. He knew Saul too well. Saul will again turn on David.
This may be your story:
You get snatches of hope, and suddenly that kind of person who wants to believe a lie will turn on you again and again. You’ll get your hopes up, and he’ll continue to wound you.
David never lived with Saul again. Saul still sought to rid himself of his “threat.”
HERE ARE SEVERAL HELPFUL PRINCIPLES TO LIVE BY WHEN MISTREATMENT HAPPENS.
1. SINCE MAN IS DEPRAVED, EXPECT TO BE MISTREATED.
The same nature that beats in the heart of Saul beats in the heart of every one of us.
Since man is depraved expect mistreatment.
2. SINCE MISTREATMENT IS INEVITABLE, ANTICIPATE FEELINGS OF REVENGE.
I didn’t say retaliate. I said, anticipate feelings of revenge. We all have them. That’s part of our depraved human nature.
Handling mistreatment doesn’t come naturally. It is a learned behavior. Rare is the individual who will not retaliate.
3. SINCE WE ALL DEAL WITH FEELINGS OF REVENGE, HANDLE MISTREATMENT GOD’S WAY.
Let me draw some principles that no doubt pleased God with the way David responded.
A. WE ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR SHARING THE TRUTH WITH OUR ENEMY, WHOEVER OUR ENEMY MIGHT BE.
We cannot change our enemy, but we can be sure he’s got the right input. There is wrong being done against David, just like against some of us.
Our tendency is “Oh, just leave it alone. It will work out.”
David told Saul, “You’re listening to false counsel. Why do you listen to men who say David seeks to harm you? That is a lie.”
Jesus spoke about declaring the truth in Matthew 18:15-17.
When we have been wronged or injured, we don’t ignore it. We go and confront the person and get it settled. We do not circumvent the conflict by gossip and disguised contempt.
Jesus said, “No! It’s between you two. Don’t go to anyone else.”
How does reconciliation happen?
Reconciliation only works if you both want the relationship to continue; and, if your enemy is from a functional background and knows how to handle conflict.
I wish I could promise you that when you do what is right your enemy will in this way suddenly see his wrong and turn and repent and view your correctly. But I can’t make that kind of promise, which leads to a second Biblical principle.
B. IF POSSIBLE BE AT PEACE WITH EVERYONE; UNFORTUNATELY, SOMETIMES IT IS JUST NOT POSSIBLE.
In ROMANS 12:18, Paul teaches that we can’t change the other person. We do all we can to be at peace. Make certain that as far as we are concerned, there is nothing between you and that person.
We are not responsible for making the enemy change his opinion. He may die believing the lie. We can’t change depravity. But down inside our hearts, we will know that the fulfillment of that sense of righteous dealing. Our conscience will be clear.
C. DON’T SPEND LIFE TRYING TO GET EVEN. REPAY EVIL WITH GOOD.
“Dear friends, never avenge yourselves. Leave that to God, for he has said that he will repay those who deserve it. Don’t take the law into your own hands. Instead, feed your enemy if he is hungry. If he is thirsty give him something to drink and you will be “heaping coals of fire on his head.” In other words, he will feel ashamed of himself for what he has done to you. Don’t let evil get the upper hand, but conquer evil by doing good.” Living Bible
If we learn to repay evil with good, we will make a powerful impact for the Kingdom of God on earth.
I have been deeply impacted by the powerful book from Charles Swindoll, A Man of Passion and Destiny: David. 2000: Thomas Nelson Publishing.