I do not plan to see the movie UNITED FLIGHT 93. It’s not that I don’t admire the heroism of the passengers who were willing to sacrifice their lives (I do). It’s not because I feel that it’s too soon to trivialize their sacrifice for entertainment. It’s that I don’t want feelings of anger, hate and vengeance to be stirred up within me.
After the 9/11 destruction of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, our TV news media felt it was their obligation to repeatedly show the images, to rub our faces in it. It got so that even though I felt that I needed to watch the news more than ever, I found myself closing or averting my eyes from these constantly recurring scenes.
Yes, I know that there’s a war on terrorism going on. And I know that I, as an American, am somehow involved in that war. It’s just that I don’t feel we as Christians have to have an attitude of vengeance toward those who have wronged us. Vengeance, according to the Bible is God’s prerogative, not mine. “Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord.” (Romans 12:17-19) And although God may use the armies of the U.S. or any other nation to bring about vengeance, He hasn’t given me that privilege. “ ... governing authorities ... are established by God ... it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath upon the one who practices evil.” (Romans 13:1-4)
When a horrible crime – a murder – is committed, we often see the family of the victim telling the news media that they need “closure” and that the only way for this to be attained is for the murderer to die. They may call it closure, but it sounds like vengeance to me.
We see the various ethnic and religious groups of the world screaming at one another, demanding retaliation for some wrong or alleged wrong. But it shouldn’t be that way with those who belong to Christ.
There’s nothing wrong with vengeance; it’s just that it’s God’s prerogative, not mine. My task is to love my enemies. “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matthew 5:43, 44) And I am to forgive those who wrong me, “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” (Ephesians 4:32)
Paul, addressing a litigious church that was apparently ready to sue at the drop of a hat, said “Actually, then, it is already a defeat for you, that you have lawsuits with one another. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be defrauded?” (1 Corinthians 6:7) Interesting advice!
I’m not saying that this is practical, that it will work, that if we would practice forgiveness, every thing would turn out alright and the world would be at peace. History clearly shows that a claim like this isn’t true. What I am saying is that love and forgiveness are what God requires of His children, whatever the consequences. I’m definitely not saying that I always practice love and forgiveness. But at least I know that I should!