By Jim Sasser
In Truth Magazine (Vol. 23, No. 34, August 30, 1979), Brother Keith Sharp had an article on the subject of vengeance. There were several good and timely things said on the subject. But, there were some things that were said that I cannot agree with because I feel that they were statements made without scriptural authority. Let me bring a few of these things to your attention as they were written and then say a few words about them.
Vengeance, As The Word Is Used In The Bible
The word “vengeance” is used 42 times in the KJV of the Bible. All but 3 of these times have reference to God’s vengeance. The remaining 3 are of such nature that they were not pleasing to God. So, we should see by this that God has not left the idea of vengeance in the hands of men to conduct as they please. In studying this subject, one might also take time to study the words “avenge” and “avenger.”
In his article, Brother Sharp said, “Human nature demands revenge for wrong suffered, for this is justice.” I feel assured that human nature will always demand vengeance or revenge, but as far as such always being justified is another matter all together. As far as we can determine from the Scriptures, with regard to the Lord and His faithful apostles, those of our spiritual leaders, none of them sought to avenge himself when he suffered ill treatment. Such should tell us that to seek vengeance is human and not divine. In fact, I think the word human is the crux of the whole matter. It is that which brings about the emotional appeals and excuses that are made by my brethren for getting involved in the vengeance taking business.
Last night, I heard a very fine sermon on the twelfth chapter of the Book of Romans. The preacher started out by using the first two verses as a basis upon which to build. The idea was to accept and apply the first two verses of the chapter and all else would fall into place easily.
Yes, if we would submit our bodies as living sacrifices to God and if we would transform out minds and bring them into harmony with Jesus Christ instead of conforming to this world, this matter of vengeance would be no problem.
Brother Sharp said, “Civil government has as both its right and responsibility and administration of this justice, Rom. 13:3, 4.” I could not agree more. God has set up His avenging body, and that body is the civil government of our land (Rom. 13:1-7). Any vengeance that is to be taken, is to be taken by this body. This avenger can use the legal forces at his disposal to get the job done, such as, the police, army, courts, etc. We, as Christians, must abide by the laws of the civil government, regardless of the nature of the government, as long as such laws do not require us to violate the laws of God (Acts 5:29).
Brother Sharp said, “There are clear apostolic examples that teach a Christian has the right to take all legal measures at his disposal to protect his rights against the onslaught of evil-doers, even to the use of the armed powers of the state.” He then cites Paul’s actions in Acts 23:12-25; 25:9-12. I, too, believe that such civil powers are ordained of God and can be used for our protection (Rom. 13:1-7). But what Brother Sharp has failed to show, even though he advocates such, is any scripture that would allow a Christian to personally be a part of this civil government, police, army, etc, and take the steps of vengeance himself. Paul did not. Jesus did not. Nor did any other who we can read about take such steps of vengeance.
“Vengeance Belongeth Unto Me . . .”
This statement was made by the Lord and not by man (Rom. 12:19-21). It goes on to say, ” . . . . I will recompense, saith the Lord.” The trouble with many Christians today, and seemingly Brother Sharp is included in the number, is that they are not willing to allow the Lord to take the vengeance that He says He will and that He says in His. They desire to do it themselves. They desire to be a part of the vengeance taking force of the land. They, seemingly, would be very willing to be the arresting officer with gun in hand, the prosecuting lawyer, the judge, and finally, the one who would pull the switch to take the criminal’s life. It is the right and responsibility of the civil government to do any and all of these things, but a Christian is not allowed to be a part of such.
Brother Sharp says, concerning the Lord’s statement “resist not him that is evil” (Matt. 5:39), “Is this a demand that Christians must passively submit to any and all sorts of physical violence? Must one watch a maniac kill his family and destroy his property, without lifting a finger to resist? Is this an injunction against Christians serving in the armed forces or on a police force?” He goes on to tell of “an outstanding lesson on the Christian and civil government, defending the right of a Christian to bear arms for his government,” that he had heard some years ago.
Once again, I too, must refer to the very fine lesson that I heard just last evening. Even though vengeance was not the primary subject of the lesson, the failure to transform our lives -and minds into the spiritual channel of God, and the seeming readiness we have for conforming to the world and human nature, are the reasons for our bringing forth such carnal appeals for our own vengeance. We are so afraid of that intruder that is going to break in and take our lives or the lives of our loved ones, that we are willing to take vengeance into our own hands and even kill if necessary. In doing this, we are willing to put the saving of our physical lives above the salvation of our eternal souls (Matt. 10:28).
I know of no scripture that would allow a Christian to participate in any vengeance taking venture. Neither do I know of a scripture that would allow a Christian to be a part of a vengeance taking organization. Do you?
Undoubtedly, Brother Sharp does think that-there are such scriptures for he said, “Our Lord does not demand that we be passive in the face of onslaught and danger. He does allow us to protect our lives, our family and our property. He does not forbid us to serve in the military or police forces.”
The assertion above, and that is all that it is for no scripture was given or can be given, is the fruit of wishful thinking and carnal desires. Brother Sharp can look as long as he wills, but he will not be able to come up with the scripture that will allow Christians to take vengeance for themselves nor to kill in self-protection. This type of worldly thinking will cease when we truly reach the goal that is mentioned in Rom. 12:1, 2. We are afraid that we are going to lose this world’s goods, or our physical lives, or we might have to live in a country that does not have as many earthly freedoms as we have been used to, or we might have to spend a few years in a prison dungeon, etc. So, what if these things do come upon us in our life time? If we are transformed in our minds and bodies and are in harmony with the Lord we will not worry too much about such trivial things. May the Lord bless us to reach that goal.
Truth Magazine XXIII: 46, pp. 745-746
November 22, 1979