Again and Again…Justice or Revenge?

Posted on November 30, 2015 in Justice


Two more high-profile violent acts in our country since Thanksgiving.

The offense and outrage are palpable. And understandable. It seems like responding with outrage has become the order of the day, the correct response in order to be on the right side.

When a policeman allegedly shoots a teenaged boy, unprovoked, I struggle with how you do justice. When a man takes the law into his own hand and screams “no more baby parts” and shoots to kill, the last thing that comes to my mind is mercy.

I write this blog to raise questions and stimulate discussion on matters of justice. Last week, one of my readers left a telling comment on this struggle: “It’s sometimes very hard to distinguish between justice and revenge.”

I follow Jesus. He calls me to do justice and love mercy. So I turn to the Bible for wisdom and guidance. The New Testament book of Romans speaks to the pitfalls of revenge:

Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Never avenge yourselves. Overcome evil with good.

Offense and outrage, given outlet by 24/7 social and journalistic media, have become socially acceptable expressions of vengeance. Again, understandable. But these expressions open the door to being overcome by evil.

Jesus taught on the perils of offense and outrage:

You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment.

Of course the bar is high. Yet He wouldn’t have taught this way if it weren’t possible to live it.

Followers of Jesus have His Spirit alive in them, to empower them to live as He taught and modeled.

I follow Jesus. But His Spirit alive in me doesn’t override my will. I need to choose. Every moment of every day.