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Vengeance Is Mine – Part 1

Pro. Jeremiah Shepherd

Forgiving is not easy, especially when the worst people do the most unthinkable things to the most undeserving people. All too often, tragedy at the hands of evil seems to fall upon those who’ve apparently done nothing worthy of the hardships they are made to endure. As the common question goes, “why do bad things happen to good people”? Nevertheless, in spite of the apparent unfairness of human conflict, forgiveness is a requirement for those who seek righteous resolutions and eternal peace.

When you think of scriptural examples of those who faced undue misfortune, Job immediately comes to mind (Job 1). His story is one that highlights the beautiful rewards of those who remain faithful, especially through trial. But Job’s situation also exposes a problem that tends to exist within us—we are prone to judging in unrighteousness, and that is a greatest hindrance to forgiveness.

In our perception of a person’s level of goodness, we determine whether their experiences are deserving or undeserving. We conclude whether the events of our lives are fair or unfair, and we do so by means that God doesn’t use. So…

Our sympathy for people is determined by our judgment of them.

In other words, we tend to determine how much concern—and also how much forgiveness—we should grant a victimized individual or group by our personal evaluation of them. If people are good in our eyes, then they’re undeserving of hardship; If they are evil, then they get what they deserve, and that often doesn’t include our forgiveness. Job was a great example of one who God, Himself, described as “perfect & upright,” but even he wasn’t immune from tribulation and distress (Job 1). Job reminds us of this truth:

Our righteousness is paid for by the forgiveness of Jesus. It is a reward we maintain when we express that same forgiveness toward others.

Job was not the cause of his own calamity, but forgiveness was still the key to his deliverance. His story underscores the critical truth that righteousness is a reward from God, not an award for men.

Job 42:10
10 And the Lord turned the captivity of Job, when he prayed for his friends: also the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before.

In the same vein, we also tend to judge whether we or someone else deserves to be defended based on how they look next the offender. In the case of Job’s story, one might ask why Job should stand trial for his righteousness when Satan is obviously far worse. Why should he be required to forgive his accusatory friends when he did nothing wrong? With our limited perspectives, we judge what we feel is the appropriate payout or restitution for an offense by comparing our evaluations of the parties involved. As sympathy increases for the sufferer and decreases for the offender, the sentence becomes more severe, and justice becomes perverted beyond what is deserved for the transgression.

Judgments and Sentences

On a basic level, sentences are simply the recompense or payout required to cover a damage gap. They are designed to correct the inequity created when an innocent party suffers an undue loss and a guilty party attempts to seize an undeserved gain. With any sentence, the purpose is to penalize the guilty and reward the innocent until the injustice or imbalance created is rectified. However, the issue with men is that damages, in our eyes, are primarily defined by a loss of temporal things, while damages in the eyes of the Lord are primarily spiritual. We count physical loss and grant physical restitution, and that is the only means we have to repay. While God does not forsake these physical things, His sentencing calculates spiritual loss and damages, and therefore He tends to repay in spiritual rewards and punishments that are much more substantial.

John 7:24
Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.

Due to the subjective, carnal, materialistic value systems of men, injustice is far too common. Even among officially appointed lawyers and judges, sentences and payouts are often determined and skewed by their personal value systems. People care more when it affects them. When their own personal emotions are involved they tend to fight harder for justice by delivering disproportionate penalties and rewards. Penalties are too severe when they aren’t needed or they are too lenient when stricter punishment is necessary. Rewards are too high when they aren’t warranted and too limited when they’re essential, and all of this is the result of unrighteous judgment.

When righteousness is defined by men, it leads to gross injustice. Sadly, people’s personal connection to any injustice often determines the effort and energy they devote to justice.

In the worst cases, wicked and manipulative men glorify victims excessively and vilify transgressors unreasonably in order to inflate the cost of reparations. The end goal is to profit from the interest of their personal investment in the justification process in order to fund their own agenda.

In one example, a divorce attorney, motivated by greed, does everything in their power to paint their clients as the victim, because they recognize that a larger payout benefits them. In another example, the media, motivated by their greed and wicked agendas, invests their platform and resources into conflict to benefit financially and sway public opinion into ratings and viewership. In both these cases, “interest” refers to both the money and attention that creates the power to manipulate people.

1 Timothy 6:10
10 For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.

This is precisely why many atrocities, murders and crimes go without appropriate attention and why distant problems don’t receive the compassion they deserve; There is apparently nothing to be gained by working for justice. In the eyes of men, retribution must pay back…literally.

This is why the misfortunes of others often need to be “marketed” before people are compelled to act—If people can be made to care, they are provoked to pay towards reparations. This is also why excessive attention is generated at every opportunity—The more people become emotionally involved, the more they are inspired to pay for justice with their money, time, effort and energy.

Then, isn’t it twisted that professing Christians, tend to treat God the same way. They think that He can be moved by our pity to give us a blessing. This is why people love messages preached about haters. A lot of times, it is simply unrighteous judgment, glorified. How or why does someone deserve the title “hater”? We love using the label, so what warrants us giving it to someone? Is it because you told them you love Jesus, or is it because you assume they’re jealous of your physical possessions and potential? When you label someone a hater, is it really because of their conviction by your obedience to Jesus? Is it because they hate the Jesus in you or just you? Today, many of Christendom’s favorite messages from their favorite pastors about haters are nothing more than the glorified judgment of others. It’s all based on materialism and a self-righteous attempt of some to build a case for carnal blessing by presenting themselves as better than others. It often doesn’t focus on our self but others, which is why people love it so much. It’s a religious blame game hoping to find the twisted faith to believe you’ll get what you want because someone else doesn’t like you.

People would rather forgo any forgiveness and fabricate jealousy to justify their unrighteous ambition.

God is interested in defending one thing—His standard of righteousness, and if that is not in you, you have no case. If you’re holding bitterness against your neighbor, you are harboring unrighteousness, and God is not obligated to come to your defense. In fact, it’s against His nature. Just ask Job. The payout for our sins would not have been released if Jesus didn’t love His own enemies. In compassion, Jesus foreknew the end of our sin and was moved to save us from it.

Here’s a question to think about? When you think about your accusers in the flesh, your naysayers, your haters and those against you, what do you want for them? When your heart is geared toward salvation, you understand what is coming for false accusers, and you might consider trying to rescue the very ones you claim are your haters.

In the minds of many, hatred towards them is why God will physically bless them, regardless of their own righteousness. This is religion playing the victim game as if it provokes God to move. What moves God is His desire for saved souls.

True compassion is motivated by the love of God, and it fights for justice because its right, not just when it benefits.

Psalm 82
1God has taken his place in the divine council; in the midst of the gods he holds judgment: 2“How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked? Selah 3Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute. 4Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.” 5They have neither knowledge nor understanding, they walk about in darkness; all the foundations of the earth are shaken. 6I said, “You are gods, sons of the Most High, all of you; 7nevertheless, like men you shall die, and fall like any prince.”a 8Arise, O God, judge the earth; for you shall inherit all the nations!

The War Over Victimhood

Carnal perspectives and a faulty approach to judgment have caused today’s society to be in a constant fight over victimhood. If you can paint yourself as the victim, you have won the greatest reward whether it is money, consequence upon your enemy or the right to retaliate and respond in any way you please. The more innocent you are and the more guilty your enemy, the more you are entitled to a payout of some sort—the more rights you have to reckless response.

People can be made to support murder if they can be manipulated to sympathize with the murderer.

All of it is due to unrighteous judgement, when the carnal perspectives of men get in the way of God’s way of correction. When our perspective remains fleshly, we approach injustice in a carnal way. When we take matters into our own hands by retaliating in the flesh, we become subject to the same methods of judgement for committing wrong against others. If you live by the sword, you die by the sword.

Matthew 26:47-52
47 And while he yet spake, lo, Judas, one of the twelve, came, and with him a great multitude with swords and staves, from the chief priests and elders of the people. 48 Now he that betrayed him gave them a sign, saying, Whomsoever I shall kiss, that same is he: hold him fast. 49 And forthwith he came to Jesus, and said, Hail, master; and kissed him. 50 And Jesus said unto him, Friend, wherefore art thou come? Then came they, and laid hands on Jesus and took him. 51 And, behold, one of them which were with Jesus stretched out his hand, and drew his sword, and struck a servant of the high priest’s, and smote off his ear. 52 Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.

This highlights the significant hindrance that frequently prevents our ability to forgive. For one thing, forgiveness eliminates the carnal earning potential of our pain. When we hold bitterness and refuse to forgive, we are hoping for greater sympathy from others and a greater payout for our miseries. Psychologically, we feel that by forgiving our enemies, they will never recognize how badly they affected us and the appropriate amount of restitution may never be realized. So we display as much emotion as we can to generate emotions in others that favor our side. Going further, we tend to skew stories so that we’re painted in the best light and our enemies—or those we want to be our enemies—in the worst light. If we’re honest, we decide we want to forgive when we think our enemies have suffered enough. Truthfully, that’s wicked, no matter how justified we feel. Imagine if Jesus did the same.

Furthermore, we necessitate forgiveness by how we judge righteousness. If we see righteousness as something we’ve earned, we think we are worthy to righteously correct unrighteousness. But if we see righteousness as a reward from God, then we understand that only He can pay for the damages done to His possession. No matter how upright Job was as a man, forgiveness was still necessary. Righteousness is not generated in any man; It is given by God.

Romans 3:9-18
9What then? are we better than they? No, in no wise: for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin; 10As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: 11There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. 12They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. 13Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: 14Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: 15Their feet are swift to shed blood: 16Destruction and misery are in their ways: 17And the way of peace have they not known: 18There is no fear of God before their eyes.

Unrighteous judgment definitely has a negative cumulative affect on the state of human relationships. People figure that forgiveness is a one-way street that the victim should never have to cross. When everyone sees themselves as the victim, human relationships deteriorate exponentially, because no one thinks it is their responsibility to initiate amends. But if God’s word declares that there is none righteous, forgiveness can be facilitated by any party.

This is why Jesus forgave us, even when He truly wasn’t at any fault, and that is also why He has the power to pay for justice and the wisdom to do so justly. Our desire for justice should not be based on our perspective at all but upon the acknowledgment that compared to the innocence of Jesus, we all owe Him everything. Forgiveness is not easy but it is critical if we plan on keeping our rewards of righteousness.

People refuse forgiveness because they believe their agony is their greatest weapon against their adversaries

People hold a lack of forgiveness because they believe their agony is their greatest weapon against their adversaries—it’s not! We think that if we never visibly express our pain and anger, our enemies will never recognize the extent of their wrongs.

Don’t fall for this lie of the Satan. Holding bitterness is not the best path to restitution, because the consequences of God fall on all unrighteousness, and that includes those who refuse to forgive their enemies. Who have we hurt or harmed but failed to realize? Who have we transgressed against and never knew? What if they were wishing evil upon us? In the end, we can’t afford to pay for our own recompense and solution nor can we pay for the compounded damages that our unrighteous sentences would certainly cause. Vengeance belongs to the Lord. He must be the one to repay.

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