In the Book of Leviticus, in what we call the “Holiness Code,” it states clearly that one should “not take vengeance nor bear a grudge.” To an even greater degree, our tradition says that you should not rejoice when your enemy falls.
In an interpretation of the Song of Moses in Exodus, when we read that after the children of Israel crossed the sea on dry land they began to sing a song, the Lord called down for them to stop the singing because: “How can you sing or rejoice when so many of my creatures are drowning in the sea?”
God is not interested in revenge, but rather that the sinner repent of his or her sins and become righteous and live a good life. What we must ask God is, “What can I do to help the individual who sinned against me?” “What can I do to spread the word of God, so that those who live a life against the word of God will learn to atone and once again be ‘one with God?’”
To ask for revenge makes one hate, and hate can be all-consuming. And when hate is all-consuming, it clouds our minds and shuts down our forgiving hearts.
If you take vengeance and bear a grudge, then you cannot fulfill the other part of the Holiness Code, which states, “and you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
Whenever the attributes of God are stated, “justice” is always tempered by “mercy.” “God is just and wise and merciful ...”
If we are to be “holy as God is holy,” then we also temper justice with mercy and learn to “love our neighbor as ourselves.”
No, it is not right to ask God for vengeance — rather that God give us the strength to love our neighbors as ourselves.
Rabbi David Baylinson, Temple Beth El, Anniston
‘Vengeance is mine’
No. We are not to ask for vengeance or revenge against another person.
Paul says in Romans 13:14-21, “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
“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.”
The injustice of this world will be paid in full in one of two ways:
• The injustice a person commits is paid for by the sacrificial death of the cross. Because a person has saving faith in the atoning work of Christ, their sinful injustice is paid for on the cross. God pours out his wrath against that sin on his Son in the place of the sinner.
• The second way that injustice is paid for is through the punishment that people outside of a saving relationship with Christ suffer in eternal hell. God pours out his anger against sin on the sinner.
In these two ways, justice is gained for every injustice ever committed in human history. Therefore, we as Christians can trust God in every situation of life. He will make all wrongs right in one of these two ways.
Carlton Weathers, Grace Fellowship, Anniston
How to submit a question
Have a question to pose to our panel of local faith leaders? Send it to “Religion Roundtable,” Lisa Davis, Features Editor, The Anniston Star, P.O. Box 189, Anniston AL 36202. Or email firstname.lastname@example.org.