Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good.”
Romans 12:19-21 NIV
What a difficult text! Do not take revenge, instead go out of your way to effectively care for your enemy? Many of us have been seriously wronged by someone who has never apologized or done anything “sufficient” to make it right. And what makes it harder to, “let it go,” is the deep inward conviction that justice needs to be served! We are quick to make ourselves judge, jury, and executioner with limited information and a personally biased perspective. We feel that to just, “let it go“ would be to admit that justice simply won’t be done. And that is hard to do.
It’s in this space between seemingly justified anger and bitter resentment that God’s promise becomes a grounding reality. Laying down the burden of anger and the practice of nursing your hurt feelings does not mean you are denying the wrong done against you. And it also does not mean there will be no justice.
This text comes with a promise and a command. The promise, “It is mine to avenge, I will repay.” We are ill-equipped to render righteous judgments. Our standards of right and wrong can flip flop depending on many factors such as our background, our circumstances, our mood, our political party affiliations, our social media feed, and even the weather. But God’s standard of justice and righteousness never changes.
This promise frees us from bitterness and resentment because the Lord Himself is an avenger. (1Thes 4:6) He will do it more justly and mercifully and more thoroughly than we ever could. Motivated by the truth that God will handle our “business,” we are freed to love and serve others, yes even those who have hurt us, more freely. Letting go and letting God is an act of faith, trusting in God as the perfect judge.
Lord, help me trust you with my anger and hurt. When injustice arises, help me remember that you see it. You are in control. You will prevail. Help me to let go and give me the strength to love and serve those who have hurt me. Amen.