Paying Back Evil

Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone. Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, “I will take revenge; I will pay them back,” says the Lord . Instead, “If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals of shame on their heads.” Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.
Romans 12:17‭-‬21 NLT

I will execute terrible vengeance against them to punish them for what they have done. And when I have inflicted my revenge, they will know that I am the Lord .
Ezekiel 25:17 NLT

At the place where the road passes some sheepfolds, Saul went into a cave to relieve himself. But as it happened, David and his men were hiding farther back in that very cave! “Now’s your opportunity!” David’s men whispered to him. “Today the Lord is telling you, ‘I will certainly put your enemy into your power, to do with as you wish.’” So David crept forward and cut off a piece of the hem of Saul’s robe. But then David’s conscience began bothering him because he had cut Saul’s robe. He said to his men, “The Lord forbid that I should do this to my Lord the king. I shouldn’t attack the Lord ’s anointed one, for the Lord himself has chosen him.” So David restrained his men and did not let them kill Saul. After Saul had left the cave and gone on his way, David came out and shouted after him, “My Lord the king!” And when Saul looked around, David bowed low before him. Then he shouted to Saul, “Why do you listen to the people who say I am trying to harm you? This very day you can see with your own eyes it isn’t true. For the Lord placed you at my mercy back there in the cave. Some of my men told me to kill you, but I spared you. For I said, ‘I will never harm the king—he is the Lord ’s anointed one.’ Look, my father, at what I have in my hand. It is a piece of the hem of your robe! I cut it off, but I didn’t kill you. This proves that I am not trying to harm you and that I have not sinned against you, even though you have been hunting for me to kill me. “May the Lord judge between us. Perhaps the Lord will punish you for what you are trying to do to me, but I will never harm you. As that old proverb says, ‘From evil people come evil deeds.’ So you can be sure I will never harm you. Who is the king of Israel trying to catch anyway? Should he spend his time chasing one who is as worthless as a dead dog or a single flea? May the Lord therefore judge which of us is right and punish the guilty one. He is my advocate, and he will rescue me from your power!” When David had finished speaking, Saul called back, “Is that really you, my son David?” Then he began to cry. And he said to David, “You are a better man than I am, for you have repaid me good for evil. Yes, you have been amazingly kind to me today, for when the Lord put me in a place where you could have killed me, you didn’t do it. Who else would let his enemy get away when he had him in his power? May the Lord reward you well for the kindness you have shown me today. And now I realize that you are surely going to be king, and that the kingdom of Israel will flourish under your rule. Now swear to me by the Lord that when that happens you will not kill my family and destroy my line of descendants!” So David promised this to Saul with an oath. Then Saul went home, but David and his men went back to their stronghold.
1 Samuel 24:3‭-‬22 NLT

It is easy to get carried away and mad, and react from one’s emotions when we feel like someone has wronged us. It is quite natural to want to respond with an “I’ll show them” attitude — but responding to evil with evil is never a winning strategy long term. And even if a man seems to have won by overpowering his opponent with evil in the moment — it is clear over time who acted with honorable intentions versus who was driven by wrath and animus.

I’ve found that wrathful, cutthroat, prideful people are quick to “read into” some things as being personal attacks and as opposition because “that’s what it means when I behave that way”. And that is how they see the world — as crushing others to lift up themselves, or coddling those they wish to rise high enough to sit beside. So communication and action may be assumed to be political or strategic in nature beyond the actual situation at hand — not just functional.

Saul sought to kill David even though David had worked loyally for the King, because his mind and his own insecurities had been twisted into examining David for anything he might use against him to justify killing him. But David did not seek to destroy Saul. Even when he had the opportunity to kill (or at least hurt Saul or allow others to destroy Saul) — his conscience and his character wouldn’t even allow him to seek vengeance. The catch is that David wasn’t some perfectly virtuous man — we see his many faults laid out in scripture — but David walked with the Lord and the Lord spoke with him and corrected him and guided him.

So when we face an enemy with their minds set on harming us or our friends or family, we might want to set a trap for them. We might want to get revenge. We might want to hurt them like they have hurt us. But… have we chosen to walk with the Lord? Are we surrendered to the narrow way following in His footsteps?

If so, then we need to be honorable — not just “look honorable” so that we can prove ourselves the “better man” — but we should humble ourselves in the midst of our sinful nature screaming out for revenge — and we should genuinely offer peace and good will. Even if they will think that is is just a wrathful, cutthroat, prideful act because that is how they see the world (in the absolute worst case, this could be true, but worst cases are rare) — it is the only way that we can truly hand over the situation to God and say “May the Lord therefore judge which of us is right and punish the guilty one”. It is The Way of approaching God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets. You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way. But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it.
Matthew 7:12‭-‬14 NLT

We read, “Enter through the narrow gate.

Jesus is the narrow gate, the door, The Way.

So Jesus said again, “I assure you and most solemnly say to you, I am the Door for the sheep [leading to life]. All who came before Me [as false messiahs and self-appointed leaders] are thieves and robbers, but the [true] sheep did not hear them. I am the Door; anyone who enters through Me will be saved [and will live forever], and will go in and out [freely], and find pasture (spiritual security). The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it in abundance [to the full, till it overflows].
John 10:7‭-‬10 AMP

Those who refuse to enter the narrow gate, the door, The Way — even if they hang around near the door (in religious tradition and practice) but never humbly enter and follow Christ in The Way — these might admit that “it sounds like a righteous thing to do”, but they will refuse to actually humble themselves and follow in The Way — because they would rather seek to “slaughter foolish sheep” for their own pleasure and advantage, rather than trust or believe that the Shepherd will protect His “naive sheep”. And if they do not repent, they will only learn the truth when the Shepherd executes His justice, His vengeance, His protection of His beloved upon them.

I dont wish the wrath of the Lord upon anyone. But if I have to choose between someone facing my vengeance or God’s vengeance for what they have done (seemingly to me or against me) — I hope that I can trust and settle for God’s justice, but hope for their repentance — and also check my own conscience for whatever repentance I need consider myself (like David).

We must not overlook our own need for repentance when wronged by another. We must not look past our need to offer reconciliation — or we might think ourselves David in the story when our heart and thoughts toward the other person has truly been more like Saul — and we were blind to the log in our own eye because that speck in theirs just kept driving us mad.

Don’t let hatred and unforgiveness and an unwillingness to communicate and reconcile leave your mind twisted and hateful, prideful and wrathful.

Enter the gate.

Come to Christ for real.

Not just in religious outward motion. Not just in many shameful, remorseful tears (don’t stop short at remorse and never make it to repentance), but in faithful surrender to walk in The Way.

Come to Him today, count the cost of being a foolish, naive, humble sheep of the Master’s flock, and see that you need not work against others to enjoy the blessings, that you need not earn honor among honorless men, that you do not have to strive for victory when He is already victorious. Amen.

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