Romans 12:19 “Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s justice, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord.”
We don’t take revenge for ourselves. We are called to live at peace with everyone. That serves God’s purposes better. That kind of example makes us the kind of people who can better communicate God’s grace and forgiveness. We become living demonstrations of grace. Imagine sitting on someone who hurt you, smashing them in the face for something they did to you, and trying to tell them, “Jesus forgives all your sins. He died on the cross to save you. Repent and believe the good news.” Not a very effective method of evangelism, I think.
But the day of God’s vengeance will come. His vengeance isn’t merely mean. When possible, the Lord desires to convert his enemies, to save them, to make them his friends, as he did with Paul. You can’t be a much bigger enemy of God than Paul was. He was an anti-Christian army of one, a one-man church-wrecking machine. He made it his purpose to destroy Christianity, to crush the church and stop its spread.
And he was doing a pretty good job of it until God knocked him off his horse on the way to Damascus to put more believers in jail. The Lord forgave Paul for his murders and persecution, and that grace turned him into the most dedicated promoter of Jesus the world has ever known.
But what if people will not and do not repent? In Moses’ Day, the Pharaoh of Egypt also tried to drive God’s people into extinction. God sent him Moses and Aaron to tell him to stop. When that didn’t work the Lord got tough with him. Ten plagues, ten catastrophes ending in the death of Pharaoh’s son, warned him that God wasn’t kidding. It was time to stop resisting.
Pharaoh wavered only for a moment. He kept defying God and pursuing his plans against Israel until he ended up drowned at the bottom of the Red Sea. God had his vengeance. So did his people. And what other fate would have been appropriate for a man like that? God couldn’t just let the Pharaoh win. He can’t let his enemies succeed.
The enemies of God’s people are the enemies of God himself. Whether now or on Judgment Day, if they won’t convert, if they won’t change sides, then they will face God’s justice. Until that time we try to live at peace with them, on our part, in the hope that God will save them, content that God will bring justice at the proper time.