I hit the Taco Bell drive thru the other day. Why? Because of the Sriracha Quesarito of course! If you know me, then you know I like spicy food…even if my stomach doesn’t always like it.
As the cashier handed me my food, she cordially said, “Enjoy your meal!”
“You too!” I shouted back with a big smile and wave.
It wasn’t until about three blocks down the road I realized what I said. “You too?” She wasn’t eating, I was! You too…come on, brain.
I replayed that over and over again in my head for the next four hours. I almost went back to Taco Bell to explain myself. “I know you’re not eating right now…that ‘you too’ was for later…I’m not an idiot…really.”
Oh well. That’s not the first – or last – time I said something idiotic at a Taco Bell. And with that, I want you to think about this.
Have you ever played a conversation over and over again in your head? Usually it’s with someone who’s hurt you. About three blocks down the road you think of the perfect come back! But now it’s too late.
I used to try to come up with good comebacks and memorize them so I could have a couple of zingers on hand, ready to fire back when someone insulted me. Then I realized that maybe my slow wit was a good thing. Maybe it was actually the Holy Spirit keeping me in check. Maybe it was self control that was keeping me from getting my revenge.
Revenge is something we want but shouldn’t have. When I take revenge, it tastes sweet in my mouth…but hurts in my stomach. Firing off that quick comeback can feel so good right away. But hours later, you’re replaying that moment in your mind for a different reason. Now you regret saying anything, and you can feel it in your gut…just like that Taco Bell Sriracha Quesarito. It tastes great going down, but once it gets down there…oh brother.
Here’s the deal: God is the one that takes care of revenge, not us?
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.
When I take revenge, I’m taking God’s place. The wrong – the injustice – that I’ve suffered is not mine to make right. God’s the one that decides who pays and how much. I want them to pay a heavy price, but God has other ideas. Here’s how he pays back his enemies:
God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.
He dies for his enemies, and I was one of them. He doesn’t make them pay, he pays the price for them. When I take revenge, I’m getting further and further away from the heart of God. I want payment, God offers mercy. My attitude about justice and God’s attitude about justice are usually worlds apart. But when I decide not to take revenge, I’m getting closer to God’s heart.
When I take revenge, I’m pushing that person further and further away from me and possibly God. In Jesus’ day, it was okay to hate people as long as they were your enemies. But one of the most radical things Jesus ever said was, “You can’t hate your enemies anymore, you have to love them” (Matthew 5:43-44). That means that when I love those who hurt me – when I decide not to take revenge – I’m showing them a picture of Jesus’ love at its most extreme and radical. And that can only help to pull them closer to God and closer to me.
“When I love those who hurt me, I’m showing them a picture of Jesus’ love at its most extreme and radical.”
I had this job once where I had to call up vendors. One day I had a bad connection and had to ask the vendor to repeat himself a couple times. He didn’t like that. He let me know he didn’t like it. He called me a bunch of names that I shouldn’t use here.
Oh, was I mad. I thought about calling him back and letting him have it, even the score and get revenge. Before I could decide which cuss words I was allowed to say, the phone rang. It was him. Was he calling back for round 2? I was ready!
But he wanted to apologize. He got some bad news earlier that day and took it out on me. I took the opportunity to forgive him, tell him about Jesus, and pray for him. Something I probably wouldn’t have had the chance to do if I had cussed him out. Because I decided not to take revenge, I was able to help this guy get closer to God.
How often do you want to take revenge? How can you let go of injustice and embrace mercy?