Romans 12:19 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.”
When wronged, we instinctively want to avenge ourselves. Something valuable was taken from us and we seek to regain it. This we do, in more primitive places, or in less gentile times, by force. Two-year-olds will simply grab it back, exclaiming, “Mine!” Or when adults, we will hit, challenge to a duel, or murder.
In more refined moments, or places that do not allow violence, we will try to recover the damage done to us more civilly but with no less anger. We sue in courts. We denounce them in social media. We execrate them to anyone who will listen, seeking to do with words what we cannot do with our fists: even the playing field, take from them what they have taken from us, get justice for ourselves.
Our God asks, insists actually, that we his people live differently. He tells us simply to never avenge ourselves. This implies that he anticipates that we will have cause to avenge ourselves. We will be wronged, he knows this. And he wants us, as his children to know what to do about it.
Simply, we do not do what every fiber in our sinful hearts wants us to do, we do not avenge ourselves. How impossible this seems! But how can we remain still, fists unclenched, silent, curses unspoken?
God tells us. Leave it to the wrath of God. We turn the debt over to God for collection or dismissal. We leave it to the Lord. This is forgiveness, that Christian virtue and mystery, hardly practiced in the world.
Notice that, as our Father tells us what to do, he has chosen his words carefully. Leave it to the wrath of God. Why not to his mercy, his love? He wants us to know that our loving Father is also just, that he also hates the sin done to us, that he sees all the pain caused us and will see that it is properly addressed.
“Vengeance is mine,” he says, and with those words he means to remove all vengeance from our hearts, every last vestige of it. For his assurance is the force that will unclench our fists and quiet our curses. His wrath, we are assured, far more effective and violent than ours, will fall rightly where it should, on the sin and the sinner, or perhaps, on his own Son, already.
What a better way to live! Rather than walking through life with a ledger keeping track of all the debts owed to us by all the people who have ever wronged us, we leave it, all of it, to the Lord. Were anyone to open the ledger in our hearts to see who has wronged us, who owes us, they would find it empty! Not a name, not a single debt to collect from anyone! This is forgiveness. What a better way to live!
Lord, let me leave it all, every penny of debt owed me by all the wrongs done to me, to you, to your wrath. Let my ledger read simply zero. Please, Lord.