Vengeance! At some time in our lives, we've desired it. Someone, somewhere has afflicted us to the point we can't stand it anymore. Inwardly we cry, "JUSTICE!" Some live with this kind of heart. Their cry for vengeance slips into the position of wanting to afflict anyone who crosses their wills, even if their will was to steal, rebel or commit some other crime.

As Christians, by and large, we're aware of the scriptural commands forbidding us to seek vengeance. A few being:

22 Say not thou, I will recompense evil; but wait on the LORD, and he shall save thee.  
        Proverbs 20:22

17 Rejoice not when thine enemy falleth, and let not thine heart be glad when he stumbleth: 18 Lest the LORD see it, and it displease him, and he turn away his wrath from him.            
Proverbs 24:17,18
29 Say not, I will do so to him as he hath done to me: I will render to the man according to his work.    
Proverbs 24:29
19 Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.            
Romans 12:19
21 For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: 22 Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: 23 Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously:   
1 Peter 2:21-23

Whether any Christian should seek vengeance, no real Christian should question, so I'll not spend time proving the issue. The concerns that arise with Christians are usually found in the sidelines:

1. Taking vengeance in a roundabout way.
2. Being filled with bitterness.
3. Consequences from not dealing with desire for vengeance.
4. Being afflicted as a result of vengeance.

I. Taking Vengeance In A Roundabout Way

Direct vengeance isn't usually seen amongst Christians. You know, he paints graffiti on your house so you paint graffiti on his. At least I hope not! Ah, but the subtle forms! Shall I list a few? Let's see, we have:


We make sure everyone knows the evil he did us. We hurt them back through this form of gossip. Most assuredly, this is vengeance.


When we see them, we scowl at them or in some other way, physically insult them. Maybe it's the silent treatment.


We not only like to tell others about their faults, we relish hearing others tell us bad things about them.


We see them doing something not quite legal, and move in for the kill. Say we're referring to a neighbor, if one neighbor does it, we ignore it, but if it's the hated one, we get outraged. For example: Say you live in a community that has RV restrictions. No RVs allowed in view. Your neighbor has a visitor in one and you rush to the phone to stir up trouble. The ways a person can harass in this manner are almost limitless.


We let them know of dire consequences we'll take. Our desire is to hurt, with no consideration of right or wrong. We have no love for this person, but only a thirst for retaliation. This is the basis of all vengeful acts.


We manifest this action in areas such as legal harassment and behavioral attacks. In short, we look for whatever way we can make life miserable for them. We seek for a way to lay a weight and burden on their heart, instead of pursuing Matthew 11:28-30.
This short list can't possibly hit all, because there are innumerable ways the human heart can devise to afflict someone. We can play little games to pretend we're not "taking vengeance", but our fellowship with God and our very soul suffer the consequences for our little games. Let's stop kidding ourselves by this seeking vengeance.

II. Being Filled With Bitterness

Let's assume we manage to refrain ourselves and don't strike back. We may obey the not taking vengeance requirement, but fail in another serious aspect - our attitude. This problem of bitterness, which is what you're left with, is very common with Christians. The writer of Hebrews tells us it's common:

14 Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord: 15 Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled;            
Hebrews 12:14,15
These verses start with "Follow peace with all men,". If our heart is filled with anger, hence bitterness, we can't be at peace with those we want vengeance on. (Of course, this verse has a safeguard, we're not to have peace at the expense of compromising holy standards.)

Verse 15 goes back to the issue following peace. Examine our heart diligently. Outward peace is not enough, there HAS TO BE inward peace. This verse warns us we often fool ourselves in its call for us to keep "Looking diligently". We convince ourselves that all's right when the poison of bitterness really consumes us.

Notice it calls it a "root of bitterness". A root is both hidden and is the source of life. It's the protected stronghold. Now let's take the Yucca plant, because of the depth to which the root can go, I've read 50' in depth. A root of this depth can only be removed from our heart by God. You see, the root will go down until it reaches water, very deep if need be. Bitterness is like this, it seeks a source to feed on, no matter how hard it is to get it. When it reaches that source, out come the leaves and flower. What's the purpose of the flower? To help spread more of its kind. You see, it just keeps multiplying. We may deal with the upper leaves and flower of that Yucca, but as long as the root remains, so does your problem. The bitterness will not stay hidden for long, it will keep manifesting itself in your life. As long as it's there, it spells trouble.

Now we see "many be defiled;". This is a common problem amongst Christians. It's not only a common problem, it's a lethal one too. That holiness we were called to follow, in verse 14, is defiled, and that grace we stand in is disappointed in two ways. First, God's grace shows undeserved forgiveness, likewise should we also truly forgive. Not just outwardly, but inwardly, without bitterness. There are times of technically not forgiving, such as Paul's verdict in 1 Corinthians chapter 5, but there should never be bitterness, even in this. Paul also addressed this in 2 Thessalonians 3:14,15 where such was to be done "not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother."

The second way we "fail of the grace of God", is that we're no longer "holy" before God. By His grace, we're acceptable before Him. By being filled with bitterness, we're defiled, hence are no longer "holy" and cannot appear before God (v. 14). This is just like the Lord's Prayer.
Now, I'm not writing this in ignorance of how hard it can be to be bitter-free. With men, there is a violation level that is greater than we can remain bitter free over. We simply can't forgive. So what do we do? Thankfully, Christ is the answer. No, He didn't give an answer. He is the answer! Christ is all things to the believer:

13 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.    
Philippians 4:13
16 That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; 17 That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; 19 And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God. 20 Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, 21 Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.    
Ephesians 3:16-21
His goal is not to just help us overcome. He wants to be our overcomer. Notice the particular wording in this verse:

4 Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.    
1 John 4:4
You will notice that it is Him in us that is the overcomer, which is our victory. Follow this next passage in the same line of thought:

30 But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: 31 That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.    
1 Corinthians 1:30,31
Looking closely, you will see He's these different things to us. He does not give us something called wisdom or righteousness, etc. This passage tells us He is these things in us. Again, this verse mirrors the same fact as John 14:6:

6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.    
John 14:6
He is the way, He is the truth, He is the life. He is not a way, not a truth and not a life. The difference is vast. We see Christ is our life, not an addition to us. We must see this to finally allow Him to be our life, our forgiveness of others. We may not be able to do it, but He can.
III. The Consequences Of Not Dealing With Desire For Vengeance


24 Make no friendship with an angry man; and with a furious man thou shalt not go: 25 Lest thou learn his ways, and get a snare to thy soul.    
Proverbs 22:24,25

When a person desires vengeance, he has to be filled with anger and fury. There is a right anger, but that of vengeance is far from it. As this verse puts it, "a snare to thy soul". Being filled with hate does more damage to you, than the evil that the person could have done. Any crime committed against you cannot victimize your heart, but hatred can reach that innermost part and "snare" it.

I've noticed that when a person desires vengeance, he becomes like the person he so hates. "How?" you may ask. When a person hates you and does you evil, he's an ugly person who is filled with hate and ponders evil. If you reciprocate, you likewise become filled with hate and ponder evil. Before, you were not like him, but now, in this way, you have become like him. If you choose not to receive Christ's deliverance over hatred and bitterness, you become rancid with spite. You not only become isolated from God, you become disagreeable to the others around you. They don't delight in hearing you slander your enemies. If they do, they're the kind you had best stay away from.


This vile habit of pondering evil is given a place in your heart and mind. The heart and mind of a Christian is called much higher:

14 Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not.    
Romans 12:14

8 Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.    
Philippians 4:8
To begin pondering retaliation defiles our hearts. We violate these scriptures, and the Spirit clearly shouts His grief over such. The Holy Spirit can't do anything in us, as long as we harbor such evil desires. We shut Him out and stifle His voice. In shutting the Holy Spirit down, we invite Satan to set up dominion in our hearts. He gladly accepts any invitations (Matthew 12:45). Not only do we become rancid from our desire for retaliation, we become ugly in many other ways. When our heart shuts down toward God and opens up toward Satan, we become more like Satan in many ways. When we convince ourselves we can harbor sin in one little area and not sink into defilement in any others, we seriously deceive ourselves.


We think that by ruminating or fulfilling a desire for vengeance, we'll find peace. Any joy obtained is a bitter joy, and it will not give the desired peace. There cannot be fellowship with God and communion in His Spirit. Such is forfeited. A joy in a fleshly plane and the joy, peace and fellowship in communion with God, can't be compared. This consequence, though sometimes less noticeable outwardly, will shut down your spiritual progress with God. You may add to yourself intellectually in spiritual facts, but it cannot be life to you. You may join in worship of God, but you can't kid God. You will become like a ship. Once your source of power is gone and your anchorage is lost, you cannot help but drift. The choice of carrying on course no longer remains in your power.

IV. Receiving The Affliction Of Vengeance

There's a twist to consider. Even though we live godly lives, we may still come under an assault of vengeance. You don't have to do bad, to have someone want vengeance on you. If you step in to help someone who is being assaulted, you may find yourself the victim of vengeance from the assailants. Vengeance comes to the just and the unjust. If you suffer the afflictions of vengeance, when doing justly, what course should you take? Back off, or plunge on?

8 He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?    
Micah 6:8

In everything we need to keep our relationship with God foremost. This focus will give us the answer to life's difficult questions. To pursue the exhortations of Micah will leave us in a right relationship with God, even though we may suffer, having done that which is right.

We were clearly told in the New Testament that we would suffer, if we live for Him:

22 Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.    
Acts 14:22
12 Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.    
2 Timothy 3:12

If we back off from doing the right thing because of fear of repercussions, we lose our focus and obedience to the call of Micah 6:8. By this verse, we see we're not to walk arrogantly without consideration. To walk humbly requires a soft heart, but also requires firm commitment to do what is right. Why firm commitment? Humility demands the acknowledgment that my own ideas are subject to defilement and error. We ultimately must concede to the instruction given in God's Word as more reliable than our own human reasoning. This leaves us with humble obedience to stand for what is right.


The vengeance we face may come from surprising sources. Sources we would never have thought possible. No matter what the source, even if it be other "servants of God", don't shift your focus from the Almighty! He will always sustain you (1 Corinthians 10:13).

The prophet Jeremiah faced this challenge of suffering vengeance from the prophets and priests in Jerusalem. He faithfully condemned their wicked ways (Jeremiah 18:18; 19:1-20:2). Since they would seek vengeance, should Jeremiah have backed off for the sake of self-preservation? We all know the answer. That's exactly the situation we find ourselves in when we wonder, "Do I take on God's obligations, or forget about it for the sake of peace and safety?" This is never an easy thing to face. Whatever way you go, you must consider, "Can I hold my head up before God, knowing I have done the right thing, or must I hang my head in shame?" This clearly defines the issue as one of sin, for shame in this manner can only point the finger at sin. The conscience must be kept truly clean.

"Ah vengeance, how sweet the sound," is it? The world says yes, the Bible says no. The hurts can remain untreated and fester, or we can trust them to the Great Physician. In many ways we are like little children. They get a bad "owee" and might let you look at it, but refuse to let you treat it. Don't do this childish thing with God over your hurts. Trust Him, He knows what He's doing.

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Free to Copy under Creative Commons BY-NC-ND3.0 License by Darrell Farkas
All quotations are from the King James Version of the Bible

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