August 5: “To Retaliate or Not to Retaliate, That Is The Question”

5 Minute Read + Scripture readings


Ezra 1:1–2:70
1 Corinthians 1:18–2:5
Psalm 27:7-14
Proverbs 20:22-23


Proverbs 20:22 (CSB) “Don’t say, ‘I will avenge this evil!’ Wait on the LORD, and he will rescue you.”


Revenge! Pay backs!

Whatever you call it, the feelings come fairly natural to many (most?) of us. I suspect that it is because of two primary, ingrained qualities: pride and justice.

Because we are proud, we find it natural to wish (or initiate) hurtful consequences upon the one who has wronged us. Whether those consequences come in the form of actions, words, thoughts, or a delight when something bad happens to them, we want others to “pay” for wrongs they did to us.

We also have an ingrained desire for justice because God has written His law on our hearts (Romans 2:15). That being the case, we readily assume that wrongs should be righted. When someone mistreats someone else (or us), we have a deep-seated notion that the wrong-doer should be punished for what they did. They should have something happen to them that discourages them from engaging in the injustice again.

Yet, for the Jesus-follower, we have to be so careful to keep these two ingrained compulsions in check. Why? Because we come to realize that we are not the judge. It is never our right to exercise revenge upon someone else to make them pay for a wrong they inflicted upon us.

Proverbs 20:22 (CSB): Don’t say, “I will avenge this evil!” Wait on the Lord, and he will rescue you.

In fact, this whole idea of being a Jesus-follower means that we become more like Him as the weeks, months, and years go on.

So, we need to ask ourselves, “How did Jesus respond when people mistreated Him?” He was mistreated all the time so all we need to do is look to the Bible to see how He responded.

1 Peter 2:21-23 (CSB) “For you were called to this, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. He did not commit sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth; when he was insulted, he did not insult in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten but entrusted himself to the one who judges justly.”

These verses are clear. We are called to follow Jesus’ example of allowing injustice to happen to us without retaliating.

So, are wrong-doers to go unchecked? Can they get away with “murder” as we are commanded to remain peaceful and silent?

No! There are quite a few other Christian principles that come into play in certain scenarios. We have the right to protect ourselves but we don’t have the obligation to do so. If turning the other cheek will help the other person to see Jesus in us, then we must do it. But, revenge is always off limits for us.

But, Scripture is also clear that we can call for God to exercise justice upon the guilty party.

2 Timothy 4:14–15 (CSB): “Alexander the coppersmith did great harm to me. The Lord will repay him according to his works. Watch out for him yourself because he strongly opposed our words.”

Romans 12:17–19 (CSB): “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Give careful thought to do what is honorable in everyone’s eyes. If possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Friends, do not avenge yourselves; instead, leave room for God’s wrath, because it is written, Vengeance belongs to me; I will repay, says the Lord.”

This is a lengthy discussion and I could keep writing about various possibilities but I’ll end with a link to another article I wrote in August 2014 where I briefly noted that it is possible for Christians to love our enemies while praying for their punishment. The article is titled: “On Loving and Killing Our Enemies.” Simply click the title to access it.


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I have an incredible wife that God gave to me on May 10, 1997. Since then, the Lord has blessed us with three wonderful boys. I am also the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Polk City, Florida.

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