Love and Vengeance

“Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord, I will repay” is an important theme in the Old and New testaments…and one in my own life as well. I once wrote a paper in law school entitled, “Vengeance is mine saith the law, it will repay” My professor rolled her eyes when she saw the title, but changed her tune after she read it (I got an “A”). The point of my paper, from a theologian’s perspective was to render what is God’s to God, and to Caesar what is Caesar’s. The bottom line, was that if you are going to be a person of faith, then, as scripture states many times, leave vengeance to God. If you are an American citizen where freedom is recognized as an unalienable right then vengeance is in the hands of our legal system which is set up to protect those freedoms, even in the face of a criminal act. I know, I know, we don’t live in a perfect world…there are unjust laws, and as for faith…its hard to let go of the hurt, unfairness and cruelty of this world. The tenor of our hate filled world is a sorry reminder of that. As one who harnesses and wields of love, though, vengeance can never be a driving force.

For Christians, Jesus speaks about forgiveness, loving your enemy, praying for those who persecute you, etc., etc. My time on this earth is too short to waste it worrying about who is going to get their just desserts. I used to be that person crying over the injustice in the world and it ate me alive (which is not the same thing as working for justice). It’s just a waste of emotion. If we trust that God has our backs, and that whatever you put out into the world will come back to you tenfold…then the exercise of letting go and letting God is instrumental in effectively harnessing love. I’m not suggesting passivity, not at all. Fighting for justice is also fundamental to my faith…but there is a powerful distinction between energizing a fight for love and justice because you believe an omnipotent God has our backs and will trust those precepts that are fundamental to that faith and the energy of a fight that obliterates the “enemy” because they think they can do a better job than God or believe that have been enlisted by God to hate another or it just feels good in the moment. Regarding Caesar’s world, we can’t revere the rule of law and then seek vengeance by disregarding it and manipulating it when it doesn’t give us the result we want. When we stand against all the negativity and hatred in the world, it has to be done with the belief that everyone, even those we see as enemies at the moment stands to benefit from wielding love.

As any person of faith, there is an expectation of certain behaviors that are in alignment with the central tenets of that faith. As a citizen of this country, there are also certain expectations of behavior as well. Melding the two together is a natural struggle to be sure, but wielding love whether it be for God, country or both can’t be done by bean counting those that break both sets of laws. That is why I struggle so deeply with the present situation in this world. People are far too eager to justify their vengeance against their “enemy” because they happen to think they are on the right team and believe the notion that anyone who doesn’t believe like they do are the enemy. Its exhausting, and stands in direct opposition to what it means to wield love in the world. Like it or not, America includes many “teams” and Christianity commands that we love one another…even our enemies. Vengeance has no place in either.

I will be the first to admit that there are days when I want to hate everybody. Part of love’s training is to be aware of and work through these weaknesses constantly. I am not always a compliant student, but I am getting better. It is often the hardest part of my training…to wield love to those who demonstrably relish in the us against them fight, or judging others as lessor than, or bullying and name calling, or those who lie or are violent or are all of the above, the list goes on and on. The truth of the matter is that we are all human and I’m sure there are those out there who wish vengeance on me by wishing me ill, judging me and calling me names…and I may not even be aware of it. I know my heart, but others may not, which may mean attributing to me qualities I don’t think I deserve, and I know I have, at times, done the same thing to others. I’ve stopped allowing the world to define or weaken me by those judgments, especially when the world is in such desperate need of love which also means bringing my heart to the forefront for everyone to see, and that is not easy…because the world can be a cruel and unfair place after all. And yet it is because I have faith in a God that has my back and augments my vulnerable heart with a greater one that vengeance plays no part in my journey. It is a burden I don’t want or need anymore. So I wield love and celebrate those that do the same in the world. The other problem with vengeance is that it take our focus away from the people who should be celebrated for all the love they share.

Every day I say the phrase “I choose” in my head, whether it is to control my vapid tongue or expose my heart…it is my choice. I make the conscious choice to wield my love in the best way I can. I choose love, not vengeance.

 

Vengence is Mine, Sayeth the Lord…I will Repay

peter kellyWhen tragedy strikes, the phrase above can be like salt to the wound.  Polarities are ridgidly distiguished and the cry for justice, vengence, blame, and blood is at an all time high…as is natural and expected.  Yet, and this is the hard part, for true healing to begin, these cries must be overcome, and lifted up to God. This is where prayer for our enemy is essential, less the dark side gain yet more souls…and I’m not just talking about the perpetrator, but those good souls whose heavenly talents may become wasted because they let vengeance and hatred cast a shadow over the potential for future goodness. It is in this time that we who bear the gift of Grace are no longer merely subject to human temperament, simply stated, we are more. Yet, to use the power of heaven, we must invoke it, claim it and use it…even when it is the most difficult, even when our hearts are breaking, even when the rage is most palpable.  We cry to God to augment our failing hearts and let his heart, be our heart. It is this time when we are most vulnerable that the dark waits to pounce, to drain the power of heaven and replace it with hatred and fear. It is when these words from 1 John are most poignant and powerful:

Beloved, if God so loved us, we must love one another.  No one has ever seen God. Yet, if we love one another, God remains in us, and his love is brought to perfection in us.  This is how we know that we remain in him and he in us, that he has given us of his Spirit.  There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment, and so one who fears is not yet perfect in love.  We love because he first loved us.

So far, the love the community has shown the family is such a testament to the goodness that lives and thrives here.  It is such comfort in the face of darkness that so many are willing to hold up and help bear the burden of others. It is how God is evidenced in this painful time. Our small community has shown the world that they have the backs of those who are suffering, we must also have faith that God has our backs too.

To embrace the call to love, doesn’t mean that we don’t hold others accountable, we have a justice system for that.  Yet, and sadly this is required of us as Christians, even those who have wronged us are of consequence in God’s eyes and must be held accountable without losing hope that God still has a plan for their souls. For they too are sons with parents. And, although they may be deep onto a dark path, what a holy turn it could take if, from the prayers for them as well, we could bring them back into the light.  Then we could truly say to the Devil himself:  We chose Love…WE WIN.