Hello Church Devotion Sept. 22, 2013
V is for VENGEANCE
Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 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." To the contrary, "if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:17-21 ESV)
Of all his brothers (and one sister), he was his father’s favorite. In fact, due to that and some rather strange dreams, he seemed to be “uppity” to his brothers - to the point that they hated him. When he was 17, they sent him off with some travelers (no, not Irish-type), who took him south and sold him as a slave. He ended up as a household slave in the estate of a high-ranking government official and was promoted to the position of major domo - in charge of the whole estate.
Apparently he was a good-looking guy - to the point that the boss’ wife decided to make him her boy-toy. But he would have none of it. Unfortunately, a slave’s word isn’t as weighty as the boss’ wife’s word - so, when she accused him of attempted rape, he ended up in jail. While there, he again proved his mettle and was made the second-in-command of the prison.
He then was put in charge of two political prisoners and helped them out. When one political prisoner was freed, he forgot to repay the favor for two years. Finally he remembered and brought his former prison-mate to the attention of the king, who was having a problem. The slave/prisoner was cleaned up and brought before the king and - wonder of wonders! - he solved not only the immediate problem, but proposed a solution to the long-term problem. The king decided that the proposer should be the man to make the plan happen. And so, sold into slavery at age 17, by the time he was 30, he was prime minister over one of the most powerful nations on earth.
Some years later, his brothers showed up, begging for a favor. While he recognized them, they didn’t recognize him. Over the course of time, he ascertained that they had changed their ways and finally let them know who he was. His father and the whole family were invited to live in the new country where their son/brother was prime minister; the reunion was joy-filled.
BUT - eventually - as things happen - daddy died. And the brothers just knew that their brother-who-had-it-made would seek vengeance on them for what they had done to him. They even invented a story about “Dad telling us to tell you to be kind to us.” And he was astounded! “Don’t you see what happened? You meant to do me harm, but God worked things out through what you did so that we’re all together, and we’re all safe!”
And so ends the story of Joseph and his brothers. Please note that, before his brothers showed up, even as prime minister, he didn’t seek revenge on his first owner’s wife or on the prison-mate who forgot him. It sounds a lot like Joseph knew what St. Paul was talking about in the text above - letting God be God and the one who (rightfully) has the title of The Avenger.
The Good News here is that The Avenger came to this earth not as The Avenger, but as the Redeemer. He lived, suffered, and died for the very things for which he could have/should have wiped us out - our rebellion, our sin, our selfishness, our seeking vengeance. Then he rose from the dead so that, baptized into his resurrected life, we could live a new kind of life. Earlier in Romans, Paul wrote: We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. (Romans 6:4 ESV) As people who have the ability to live (“walk”) in this new way, we pray:
Heavenly Father, thank you for moving us from being the focus of your wrath to being the focus of your mercy and love. Help us, daily, to learn from you and to be willing to live peaceably with all people, even those whom we really don’t like. Give us the ability to share the good things you have done for us and for the world with those around us - even when they abuse and mistreat us. And, when we miss the mark in doing this, forgive us for Jesus’ sake and move us back to living on the right path. Amen.
FOR FURTHER THOUGHT:
The desire for revenge is common to all humanity. Just look at the following quotations and see how world-wide this is:
$ “Revenge is a dish best served cold” (a Mafia expression saying that revenge is best when carefully planned and executed)
$ “Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves” (Confucius)
$ “An eye for an eye will only make the whole world blind” (Ghandi)
$ “Revenge is a bad business plan, Newfoundland” (headline of an article by Konrad Yakabuski in the July 27, 2013, edition ofThe Globe and Mail, Toronto, Canada)
Why do you suppose this is? (Try Genesis 6:5 on for size)
What comes to your mind (and your emotions) when you see the following names:
Dzhoken and Tamerlan Tsarnaev
And that list could go on and on and on.
Is it okay to seek justice? (See Romans 13:1-4)
And, related to that - can you find the dividing line between vengeance and justice-seeking?
I spent a good bit of time re-telling the story of Joseph. Can you find parallels in the life of Jesus and the life of Joseph?
Karl J. Dunker, Pastor Emeritus
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