August 20, 2021
Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 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.
In these five verses, Paul describes how we should respond when we are wronged. One phrase in particular jumped off the page when I first read it, because it seems so out of place.
“. . . but leave room for God’s wrath . . . “
We could go deep down the rabbit hole of analyzing God’s wrath—what it means in this passage and where we see it, and who deserves it. But since this is a personal reflection, let me draw your attention to a different part of that phrase, one directed at you and I when in conflict: “leave room.”
If we want to see God’s presence (let alone his wrath) when wronged, Paul makes it clear that our attempts to avenge ourselves, even if justified, crowd out the work God wants to do in the situation. Even more likely is that the justice God wants to bring looks very, very different from the revenge we want to bring. What type of justice did God visit on you when you were a sinner, wreaking havoc in the lives of those around you, and racking up a debt of wrongdoing? He sent His son to pay the price.
It’s hard to admit that you and I have no idea what God wants to create out of our fights and disagreements. Thankfully, we don’t need to know what God wants to do; we simply need to leave room for Him to do it. Give them food and drink. Be extraordinarily kind to those who wrong you so that God can overcome evil with good.
Who are you in conflict with right now? Who do you want to exact revenge upon, or who do you feel deserves the swift uppercut of justice, right on the kisser? Put that person’s image in your mind, and ask yourself, “How could I show kindness to him or her? How could I quench their thirst or sate their hunger?” In doing so, you will leave room for God to work and bring a truer justice than revenge ever could.