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  • Chad Werkhoven

Romans 12:17-21 - Apocalyptic Revenge

Revenge is best served by our holy & righteous Father.

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Read Romans 12:17-21

Listen to passage & devotional:


Heidelberg Catechism Q&A 105

Q. What is God’s will for you

in the sixth commandment?

A. I am not to belittle, insult,

hate, or kill my neighbor—

not by

my thoughts,

my words,

my look or gesture,

and certainly not

by actual deeds—

and I am not to be party to this

in others;

rather, I am to put away

all desire for revenge.

I am not to harm or recklessly endanger myself either.

Prevention of murder is also why government is armed with the sword.



One of our most fundamental inclinations as Americans is the concept of fairness, that people ought to get exactly what they deserve. It's this deeply embedded motivation that the Bible calls you to push back against. Rather than repaying a person by giving him what he's got coming, you must "not take revenge."

The catechism reminds us here that that an ugly concept like murder is not limited to the overt actions related to physically taking a person's life, but extends to seemingly benign actions such as belittling and insulting people. Sometimes it might feel good to blow off a little steam by verbally assaulting a person who's been giving you grief so that things don't escalate into a full blown physical confrontation, but you can see that the catechism is simply echoing Paul's advice to, "as far as it depends upon you, to live at peace with everyone, and do not take revenge."

This peace that you're called to is much more than just an outward politeness in which you don't say the quiet part out loud, even as you seethe and simmer on the inside. No, the Bible calls you to a pervasive, permeating peace that radiates from the inside out; a peace that keeps not just your mouth and hands in check, but your thoughts, looks and gestures as well.

This passage ends with the famous line:

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

This passage often gets externalized, as if the best way to overcome bad guys is to shower them in good deeds. That may occasionally be the case, but I don't think that's what Paul means here. He wasn't referring to the evil reigning all around you, but the evil that seeks to plant its flag inside of you - your sinful nature (Sarx), who gains ground with every revenge filled thought and attitude you allow to fester. Overcome Sarx by flooding him out as you fill your mind with whatever is noble, right, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy (Philippians 4:8).

Dig Deeper

The concept of revenge is a theme deeply woven into the fabric of scripture. In fact, the Bible draws to a close with Jesus promising to do the very thing that Paul here prohibits you from doing: Jesus will return with His settlement, meaning that He will repay everyone with exactly what they deserve, either good or bad.

Base the peace that you've been commanded to have by "leaving room for God's wrath, for it is written, "It is mine to avenge; I will repay, says the Lord."

  • ACKNOWLEDGE WHO GOD IS: Our Father who has promised to reward good and repay evil;

  • ALIGN YOUR LIFE WITH GOD'S WILL: Pray for the strength to let go of your sinful instinct to desire revenge and instead reflect the goodness and forgiveness Jesus has shown you;



Read the New Testament in a year, a chapter a day - 1 John 3


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