Revenge and Grace
With a quick google search of “spite house” or “Boston skinny house” you can learn an interesting story of revenge. There was a property that is said to have belonged to two brothers who inherited land from their father in the 1800’s. However, when one of the brothers was away fighting in the Civil War, the other sibling built a large home on the property, taking up more than his share of land. When the other brother returned to find his share of the land invaded, out of spite, he decided to squeeze in an adjacent house, blocking this brother's views and sunlight. While this story is somewhat comical it does shed light into most of our first reaction to hurt, betrayal, and broken relationships...we seek revenge. The problem is our natural reaction of revenge doesn’t match God’s response of grace.
In 1 Peter 3:9 it says "Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing." Peter was one of Jesus' closest friends and followers, he obviously picked up the reality that revenge may be our natural first response but it does not truly fix things and it tends to hurt us as well. If you read Romans 12:17-19, Paul speaks similarly to Peter about how we as Christ followers should not seek revenge.
So the question is, if our natural reaction is revenge, how do we start flowing forgiveness out of us? I believe it starts with a proper view of ourselves and proper view of the cross. In Romans 5:10 Paul reminds us, "For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!" In this passage Paul reminds us that before Jesus died on the cross and cancelled out sin an debt, we were Gods enemy. Not enemy because He didn't love us but because He is just and we had been unjust to Him. The good news is that he did cancel our debts and made a new way for us, because of Jesus we have new life. You see, when our view of others is in step with God’s view of us, we will be ready to give grace. When we realize that we don't deserve His grace and cannot earn it either, then we can begin to give that same grace out to our family, friends, and even enemies.
Always keep in mind that God is a God of justice but not a God of revenge. You see revenge is predominantly emotional; justice primarily rational. Revenge is, by nature, personal; justice is impersonal, impartial, and both a social and legal phenomenon. Revenge is an act of vindictiveness; justice, of vindication. Revenge is about cycles; justice about closure. Revenge is about retaliation; justice about restoring balance. In Matthew 5:38-42 you can read a teaching Jesus gave about when people wrong us and while it is often misinterpreted for many different reasons, the main point of His teaching was to bless rather than curse, to live a life that would point even our enemies to a love that is unbelievable but so real.
Maybe you have heard before that mercy is God not giving us what we do deserve; grace is God giving us something we do not deserve. I believe when we take the focus off what we “deserve” and live a life that points all to what we do not deserve (God's grace), that’s how lives can be changed in the name of Jesus. Following Jesus is all about dying to our selfishness and being filled with Him so we can live like Him. May we live in a way that is different than the rest of the world and points the world toward Jesus.
In Matthew 5:9, Jesus proclaimed, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God." I don't know about you but I want to be called a child of God, I want to live for and with Jesus. God has called us to be peacemakers, not troublemakers. May we know that our hurts are real and that God does care about them but may we also seek forgiveness, reconciliation, and peace in the name of Jesus.