Tag Archives: vengeance

Should a Christian Pray for God’s Vengeance?

Jesus brought a deeper spiritual principle to bear upon the attitude of people towards revenge and retribution. In Matthew 5:38-42, He made three radical statements. First, He said that a person should turn the other cheek when someone strikes him. Second, He declared that His followers should give those who sue them more than they are asking. Third, He said that a person who is conscripted by a Roman officer to carry a load for one mile should offer to go two.

Does this mean that we cannot resist when somebody attacks us? Should we let everyone take advantage of us? This can’t be what Jesus meant. After all, Jesus denounced the Pharisees who attacked Him (Matthew 23) and objected when He was struck by one of the officers of the high priest (John 18:22). Further, He advised His disciples to take measures to defend themselves (Matthew 10:16), and He declared that they shouldn’t “meditate beforehand on what you will answer” to an enemy’s charges because He “will give you a mouth and wisdom which all your adversaries will not be able to contradict or resist” (Luke 21:14-15 NKJV). Similarly, the apostle Paul aggressively defended himself against his enemies on occasion (Acts 23:1-3), asserting his rights as a Roman citizen and making it clear to his attackers that there could be consequences if he were unlawfully harmed (Acts 25:14-27).

What Jesus asks of His followers is not passivity but surrender of the right to personal revenge. His three radical examples make His point about the attitude we should have toward those who wrong us. Rather than getting even, we should be willing to go to the opposite extreme. We need to be ready to humble ourselves for the kingdom of God. We need to understand that vengeance isn’t ours, but the Lord’s (Romans 12:19).

The natural human tendency has been to seek the emotional satisfaction of revenge for perceived injury (Genesis 4:8). Our instinctive response to any kind of injury is hatred and desire for vengeance. This is why Jesus made it so clear in His Sermon on the Mount that not only outward murder, but also inward hatred is subject to God’s judgment (Matthew 5:22-23). Consequently, the Old Testament Law placed limitations on vengeance (Exodus 21:23-25). Although the “eye for an eye” provision of the Mosaic Law has often been misunderstood as requiring vengeance, its actual purpose was to place limitations upon it. The law wouldn’t permit murder out of revenge for an insult or a minor injury. If an eye were put out, only an eye could be taken; if a tooth, only a tooth.

Jesus went much farther than the law, making it clear that He wasn’t merely calling for more limitations on vengeance. In Matthew 5:38-39, He implies that we must give up personal vengeance altogether. But as illustrated above by Jesus and Paul’s examples, there is a difference between confronting evil and seeking personal revenge. It is possible to confront evil with a desire for the redemption of its perpetrator. We can love a sinner while confronting his sin, but when we seek vengeance we are (always) motivated by hatred.

If Matthew 5:38-42 were taken literally at all times, we would have to let everyone take advantage of us. Turning the other cheek would become an encouragement for evil. This isn’t what Jesus had in mind. His vivid examples illustrate His disciples’ need to give up any sense of entitlement to personal revenge, to be purged of the motivation of personal vengeance. By asking them to “turn the other cheek,” Jesus meant that His disciples should be motivated by love and a desire for the redemption and forgiveness of offenders—even when opposing their actions.

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Why Is New Testament Christianity Opposed to War?

Although most Christians agree that war is sometimes necessary in self defense (See the ATQ article When Is a War Just?), and nominal “Christians” have often wrongfully launched or participated in wars of aggression, genuine, New Testament Christianity would never be the cause of war.

The New Testament is neither hostile towards non-Christians, nor does it rationalize aggression against them.

Christianity’s core beliefs are clearly defined by the New Testament:

1. Humanity is sinful and needs redemption.

2. God loves the entire human race, regardless of race, gender, or cultural background.

3. The perfect life and atoning death of Jesus Christ provided our redemption.

4. Jesus is the “firstborn of many brethren” (Romans 8:29), the model for Christian living (John 17:16-26).

The New Testament views all people—including Christians—as sinners in need of forgiveness and calls on them to repent their sins, accept God’s free gift of salvation through Jesus Christ, and live gratefully, lovingly, and obediently with Jesus as their model. It portrays all people as equal in spiritual worth, whether rich, poor, male, female, slave, or free (Acts 17:26; Galatians 3:28; Colossians 3:9-11; 1 Peter 2:9). It also separates spiritual authority from governmental authority (Mark 12:16-17, John 19:11, John 18:36-37).

The New Testament requires Christians to be concerned for their enemies (Matthew 5:44; Luke 6:20-34; Acts 7:60; 1 Corinthians 13:1-3, 13; Ephesians 5:1-2); to shun self-righteousness (Matthew 7:3-5; John 8:3-11; Romans 5:8-11; Galatians 6:1); to repudiate the idols of ethnic pride and privilege (Matthew 8:5-13; Luke 10:30-37; Luke 17:11-19; John 4:9); to refrain from judging other people’s hearts (Matthew 13:24-30); to realize that one’s responsibility to God is of a higher order than one’s responsibility to the state (Mark 12:13-17); and to forgive repentant sinners and forswear revenge against them (Luke 23:34; Romans 12:14-21; Ephesians 4:31).

Only when flagrantly distorted and misapplied can the words of the New Testament be taken to imply that Christians should forcefully impose their faith on others. The gospel of Jesus Christ commands Christians to overcome evil with good; realize that love and forgiveness are essential to the establishment of God’s kingdom; be conscious of the distinction between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of the world; and be humble as sinners who have not only been forgiven but graciously given the power to live an obedient life.

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What did Jesus mean when He said not to resist an evildoer, and to instead turn the other cheek (Matthew 5:39)?

In Matthew 5:38-41 , Jesus made three radical statements. First, He said that a person should turn the other cheek when someone strikes him. Second, He declared that His followers should give those who sue them more than they are asking. Third, He said that a person conscripted by a Roman officer to carry a load for 1 mile should offer to go 2 miles. Does this mean that we should never resist when somebody attacks us? Should we let everyone take advantage of us?

This can’t be what Jesus meant. After all, Jesus denounced the Pharisees who attacked Him ( Matthew 23 ), and objected when He was struck by one of the officers of the high priest (  John 18:22-23). Further, He advised His disciples to take measures to defend themselves ( Matthew 10:16; Luke 22:36-38 ). He also declared that they shouldn’t worry beforehand about how they should respond to their enemies’ charges, because He would give them the right words to say so that their adversaries wouldn’t be able “to contradict or resist” them ( Luke 21:14-15 ).

Similarly, the apostle Paul aggressively defended himself against his enemies, asserting his rights as a Roman citizen, and making it clear to his attackers that there could be consequences if he were unlawfully harmed ( Acts 23:1-3; 25:14-27 ).

What Jesus asks of His followers is not passivity, but surrender of the right to personal revenge. His three radical examples make His point about the attitude we should have toward those who wrong us. Rather than getting even, we should be willing to go to the opposite extreme. We need to be ready to humble ourselves for the kingdom of God. We need to understand that vengeance isn’t ours, but the Lord’s ( Romans 12:19 ).

The natural human tendency has been to seek the emotional satisfaction of revenge for perceived injury ( Genesis 4:8 ). Our instinctive response to any kind of injury is hatred and desire for vengeance. This is why Jesus made it so clear in His Sermon on the Mount that not only outward murder but also inward hatred is subject to God’s judgment ( Matthew 5:22-23 ).

The Old Testament law placed limitations on vengeance ( Exodus 21:23-25 ). Although, the “eye for an eye” provision of the Mosaic law has often been misunderstood as requiring vengeance, its actual purpose was to place limitations on it. The law prescribed that punishment must fit the crime. The law wouldn’t permit taking a life in revenge for an insult or a minor injury. If an eye were put out, only an eye could be taken; if a tooth, only a tooth.

Jesus went much further than the law, making it clear that He wasn’t merely calling for more limitations on vengeance. In Matthew 5:38-48 , He implied that we must give up personal vengeance altogether. But as illustrated above by both Jesus and Paul, there is a difference between confronting evil and seeking personal revenge. It is possible to confront evil with a desire for the redemption of its perpetrator. We are called to love a sinner while confronting his sin, but when we seek vengeance we are motivated by hatred—a desire to make someone suffer for what they have done to us.

If Matthew 5:38-48 were taken literally at all times, we would have to let everyone take advantage of us. Turning the other cheek would become an encouragement for evil. This isn’t what Jesus had in mind. His vivid examples illustrate His disciples’ need to give up any sense of entitlement to personal revenge, to be purged of the motivation of personal vengeance. By asking them to turn the other cheek, Jesus meant that His disciples should be motivated by love and a desire for the redemption and forgiveness of offenders—even when opposing their actions.