Rom 12:19 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.”
This instruction from the Lord does not neutralize vengeance. It sustains it. What the Lord does command here however is that this business of vengeance be left to Him. Why? Because we cannot handle it, and this is true for several reasons. First, we are unable to know everything. Perfect justice requires perfect knowledge. Knowledge of a person’s heart motives. Knowledge of the facts.
And second, we are not suited for meting out vengeance because we are not capable of discerning what punishment truly fits the crime. Of course the civil authorities whom God has appointed, as they follow the law, are more capable in this regard but even they struggle with their many human limitations and, more often than we like, real justice is not effected.
Third, we are very biased. Like a judge who is best buddies with a defendant (or his sworn enemy), we are not competent to be judge, jury and executioner.
Still another reason we cannot handle vengeance – and I think that this is the most important point to know – we cannot handle vengeance because it will turn on us and consume us. When we try to turn the wolves onto someone, the pack might very well turn upon us. Just think about it – a person who is consumed by a quest for revenge is not a person you really want to be around. They are not a pretty picture. Desiring justice, wanting to be vindicated by the wicked getting their just “desserts” is not wrong at all. It is right. But we must look to that Great Day when Christ comes to judge the world in righteousness rather than giving our energies and hearts to getting revenge ourselves now.
I have known people who have been sorely wronged. I have known some abuse victims who really have been abused – and they have gone down that dangerous and sinful road of working to take vengeance themselves. Not only are they unpleasant to be around, they are positively dangerous to be in company with.
Recently I wanted a video by Dr. Les Carter (linked here) entitled “The Number 1 Emotion Driving the Narcissist’s Mean Streak,” and I found it incredibly accurate and helpful. That number one emotion, he notes, is the desire for revenge. Vengeance. He goes on to say that in his experience, when a person comes to the stage of narcissism which is driven by this lust for vengeance, that person is beyond redemption. They have, as he describes it, gone over to the dark place.
You do not want to go there. There is, most typically, no road back from it. Leave vengeance to the Lord. He can handle it. You cannot.