Justice And Vengeance

Scales on a colorful backgroundNo matter how many times I read it, the Sermon on the Mount is still so powerful and useful.  Whether it is the beatitudes at the beginning, or “the wise man building his house on the rock” at the end, the Sermon on the Mount still stands as a masterpiece.  Let us take the opportunity to explore a specific part of the sermon.  Early on, Jesus taught a great lesson against revenge and retaliation.  He stated, “Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth:  But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil:  but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also” (Matt. 5:38-39).  Unfortunately, there may be some misunderstanding about what Jesus was saying.  Our Lord lived and died while the Law of Moses was still in effect.  Under the Law of Moses, it was commanded, “And if a man cause a blemish in his neighbor; as he hath done, so shall it be done to him; Breach for breach, eye for eye, tooth for tooth:  as he hath caused a blemish in a man, so shall it be done to him again” (Lev. 24:19-20).  Therefore, Jesus would not have contradicted the Law of Moses because that was God’s Word for that time.  So what exactly did Jesus mean then? 

            First of all, we need to understand justice.  God is just!  Zechariah mentioned, “Thus speaketh the LORD of hosts, saying, Execute true judgment, and shew mercy and compassions every man to his brother” (Zech. 7:9).  Likewise, Isaiah wrote, “For I the LORD love judgment, I hate robbery for burnt offering; and I will direct their work in truth, and I will make an everlasting covenant with them” (Isa. 61:8).  God is not against making righteous judgments against another (John 7:24).  The institution of government is given the responsibility of making sure that justice is done.  Paul wrote, “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers.  For there is no power but of God:  the powers that be are ordained of God.  Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God:  and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.  For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil.  Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power?  do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same:  For he is the minister of God to thee for good.  But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain:  for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil” (Rom. 13:1-4).  Sadly, there are so many people who advocate against justice.  Those who speak against justice are not siding with Jesus, but rather have misunderstood the Lord’s teaching.

            Second, when a man seeks vengeance, he is not obeying God.  This is what Jesus condemned.  Right before the verses that authorize the government to execute justice, Paul also wrote, “Recompense to no man evil for evil.  Provide things honest in the sight of all men.  If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.  Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath:  for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.  Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink:  for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head.  Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good” (Rom. 12:17-21).  Also, the writer of Hebrews stated, “For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord.  And again, the Lord shall judge his people.  It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb. 10:30-31).  Mankind is wrong to seek revenge.  The execution of vengeance belongs to God!

            Hopefully this helps the reader to understand what the Lord taught.  Keep in mind, that all Scripture is from God, and as such, neither verse contradicts another (2 Tim. 3:16-17).  So, would it not be better to live in a world where the Lord’s way is followed and obeyed?  Imagine the change that could happen today if people would “…Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you” (Matt. 5:44).  This is exactly what Christians should do, for Jesus also said, “That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven:  for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matt. 5:45).