The Venom of Vengeance
When we are wronged in some way, our natural inclination is to fight back. Some people hold to the philosophy, “I don’t get mad, I get even!” We hear such expressions as “settling the score,” or “what goes around, comes around;” All of which points to the spirit of so many who are convinced that revenge is sweet! And yet the Lord says otherwise. We must remember that being conformed to the image of Christ demands that we be controlled by love – a love that “does no harm to its neighbor” (Rom.13:10), and in fact “is not easily angered” and “keeps no record of past wrong” (1 Cor.13:5).
In 1 Samuel chapter 24, we encounter a time in David’s life wherein he certainly had an opportunity to take revenge, and yet he resisted. He wanted nothing to do with the venom of vengeance. What can we learn from David and this account in 1 Samuel 24 that will help us resist a spirit of revenge?
David finally decided to listen to the Lord. When David found himself in the same cave with king Saul, his men saw this as an opportunity for revenge.
Refusing to get revenge doesn’t mean that we refuse to hold others accountable for their actions. It means simply that we must refuse to retaliate.
In fact, they argued that “the Lord” surely had brought them together for just such an occasion (vs.4a). Unfortunately, David gave in to their foolish advice and “secretly cut off a corner of Saul’s robe” (vs.4b). One of the greatest tests of character comes during moments like these, when our enemy is in a most vulnerable situation. But regardless of how we seek to soften the subtlety of settling the score, God calls it revenge. Fortunately, David’s heart “troubled him” (vs.5) and he stopped paying attention to the advice of his men and remembered the word of the Lord (vs.6). We too must listen to the Lord (see Rom.12:17-21) rather than “doing what seems good to us.” No doubt, if there’s to be a reprisal, the Lord tells us to leave it in His hands.
David was willing to show respect for a man’s position, in spite of that man’s person. David’s act of cutting Saul’s robe was an expression of the utmost disdain and disrespect, not so much for Saul, but for the position of king. Regardless of all the evil Saul intended for David, David would no longer show distain for such a high office. What a great example for us. David was willing to show respect for the position occupied by Saul, when he knew the person behind the position was evil. Remember, it’s possible to show respect for the office or position one holds, while having very little if any respect for that person due to their lack of integrity and godliness.
David recognized his right and God’s role. When Saul left the cave, David followed afterward. David was no coward. He had no problem confronting the lies spoken against him (vs.9) and the evil intended for him. Using a piece of Saul’s robe as evidence, David opened his defense (vss.11-15). David then closed his defense by asserting for a second time that he was willing for the Lord to both judge and avenge (vss.12,15). Refusing to get revenge doesn’t mean that we refuse to hold others accountable for their actions. It means simply that we must refuse to retaliate. The Lord doesn’t call us to be weak and passive, He calls us to forgive our enemies and love as He first loved (Matt.5:38-48). Someone has said that “while revenge gets you even with your enemy; forgiveness puts you above him.” When we have been hurt so deeply, we should expect that the temptation to retaliate will be very strong. But it’s then that we must not avenge ourselves nor give place to the devil. We must not return evil for evil, but “always seek after that which is good for one another and for all people” (1 Thess.5:15).
Let us trust in the Lord and leave room for His way and wrath. Let us learn from David and resist when we are tempted to seek revenge. Let us rid ourselves of the venom of vengeance.
Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men [Rom.12:17-18].