A Cry For Justice

Awakening the Evangelical Church to Domestic Violence and Abuse in its Midst

Is Leaving Room for the Vengeance of the Lord a Get out of Jail Free Card for the Wicked?

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)

This passage of Scripture has very often been twisted and used by the wicked and the naive to silence victims of evil. I (Jeff) heard it again recently from a pastor. “Just be quiet about this. You have no right to speak of it. You need to leave vengeance to the Lord.”  Yada, yada.

Here then is an example of the mishandling of Scripture and how we must always be very careful to consider the entire Bible as well as the immediate context of a verse if we are to interpret and apply it in truth. We know that this passage does not negate:

  • Talking about a person’s wicked deeds in order to expose them
  • Seeking justice now, in this present life, for the victim of that wickedness
  • Seeking just punishment in this present life for the perpetrator

How do we know? Because we have read the rest of the Bible!

The Bible very often speaks of evil deeds done — even naming names of the perps (Alexander the coppersmith, Diotrephes, Hymeneus, King David, the evil man of 1 Cor 5 who must be put out of the church, etc). God is Light. He exposes darkness and the deeds of darkness. We are to do the same. But very often these verses in Romans are quoted in order to silence any discussion of an evil done. “You are seeking vengeance. God will repay. You need to be quiet about this.”  Wrong. Totally wrong.

What is the intent of the Apostle Paul here? He is instructing us to take care that we do not let evil lead us to become evil. Don’t let evil overcome you in the sense that you turn right around in a vengeful spirit and commit evil in retaliation. Our flesh is given to this, right? This is how road rage gets underway. When we are wronged, when we are sinned against, we must not turn right around and revile the guy who has reviled us. That is God’s business, not ours.

In fact, there is a better way, and Paul shows it to us. Be kind to your enemy when you see him in some need. Feed him. Give him a drink when he is thirsty. Don’t buy cigarettes for him when he has run out—cigarettes are a slow killer. But do give him water if he is thirsty—water is essential for life and health. Don’t be naive, he is still an enemy. But this non-retaliatory kindness business actually burns the guy. “Heap burning coals on his head.”

Now, I don’t really know what ‘heap burning coals on his head’ means specifically. There has been all kinds of debate about it. The “nice guy” types try to come up with some explanation of it that makes it some pleasant act of love done for the fellow. And there have been other explanations too. I think all we need to know is that having burning coals heaped up on the top of your head is NOT a fun thing! “You want to deal with a wicked person who is an enemy and commits evil against you?” Then help him when he is in need by meeting his need. You don’t have to like him. You don’t have to work up warm fuzzies about him. You must not think that this is all for the purpose of helping the wicked find the good side of the force in themselves. Nope. It probably even refers to a future Day when the Lord judges all men. People like this will experience an even more severe level of God’s wrath when it is shown we were kind to them.

Now, personal vengeance and doing evil as payback for evil done to us is RADICALLY different from hungering and thirsting for justice. Jesus did not revile His revilers, but He sure blasted them by exposing their wickedness publicly. And Jesus reminded the high priest of his accountability before God (Matt 26:64). Furthermore, He responded firmly to the high priest’s interrogation by putting a question back on the high priest, and then telling him what to do: “Why do you question Me? Question those who have heard what I spoke to them; they know what I said.” (John 18:21)

Like Jesus, the Apostles were not afraid to expose the wickedness of their revilers publicly. And over and over again the Bible instructs all of us to seek justice for the oppressed.

Break the arm of the wicked and evildoer; call his wickedness to account till you find none. The LORD is king forever and ever; the nations perish from his land. O LORD, you hear the desire of the afflicted; you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed, so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more. (Psalm 10:15-18)

“How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked? Selah. Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.” (Psalm 82:2-4)

It is a mark of a wicked person to pressure the oppressed to be silent, and to accuse them of sin when they seek justice.

This was evident very recently in my own experience as I heard words from a Christian leader that bullied and guilted and accused someone who was exposing evil and seeking justice. I have come to recognize this trait and I have concluded that any church or Christian leader or professing Christian who uses these bullying tactics is to be immediately rebuked, openly and publicly, and a leader needs to have his qualification to remain in his position seriously questioned.

So the next time you hear Romans 12 used as some kind of ‘get out of jail free’ card for the wicked, don’t just sit back and take it. Continue to seek justice. Leave vengeance to the Lord. But seek justice now. It is a good and right thing to do.

 

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22 Comments

  1. springofwater

    Yes!! Praying Psalm 10 for our abusers is a godly act. And giving kindness in this basic fashion was my commitment to the abuser with whom I lived for years, even when we were separated and he was continuing to deny. I gave him physical help until it became completely unsafe to do so.

    When my church asked me to not speak to anyone about his abuses, I was silenced. It was hard because I didn’t want to sin and gossip, and I didn’t want to share with many people anyway, but I also knew my pastors hadn’t heard my story (they never gave me opportunity, for a year!). They were duped by his lies and accusations that I was exaggerating. I didn’t even reply to their “it’s both of your fault” emails. But God allows the truth to come to light. I’m thankful that the pastors are finally beginning to see. It took me having a significant injury, and even after that, they had to watch for months of his refusal to provide ANY financial support, once a judge had given him consequences.

    It hurts me a lot that my h won’t help with the children’s needs, even after I had attended to his needs. I felt so alone and abandoned by my pastors because they didn’t reach out to me, even after the papers were in their hands proving his abuses.

    But I’m glad the Lord is working in them. By the Lord’s leading, I got up courage to ask again for justice. One pastor finally listened to my story. They are beginning to support me. The Lord Jesus is my Faithful and True, and He is my Deliverer.

    Thank you for your ministry of writing and speaking. It has been a huge help to me.

  2. Herjourney

    Exposing the wicked has great ramifactions. If your intent is righteous judgement . Your enemy will get wind of it. I wish I could go more in depth here. Losing a paid position is more admirable to God than holding a position to futher Satans kingdom. Expect rejection. Slander. Gossip. Even possible restrictions in the field where God has called you to work.The enemy is relentless in his pursuit of keeping you off the course where God would have you witness. Be as wise as a serpent and harmless as a dove. Matthew 10:6
    Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, BUT INWARDLY
    THEY ARE RAVENING WOLVES. Matthew 7:15

  3. Honestly

    I am hearing much manipulation, even using God’s Word to silence women in particular about the abuses.I was told I shouldn’t have divorced, choose love and the parroted, love, love, love when there wasn’t any for years. The truth needs to be known for true healing and prevention imo however is that giving a narcissist information on how successful he was?

    • Hi Honestly, can you please clarify your question? I’m not sure what you are asking in this comment of yours.
      love from Barb

  4. Misti

    In other words, justice and vengeance are two quite different things. They are not synonyms.

    justice !== vengeance

    I find a lot of the warping of scripture relies on treating things as exactly synonymous that really aren’t.

    • Hope

      Thank you Misti, I agree. Just as a difficult marriage ≠ an abusive marriage, so too justice ≠ vengeance. I’ll bet there are many more non-equalities that people could list which are often used to silence truth and right.

      • 1dw

        Agreed. Here are a couple I’ve had to work through:
        forgiveness does not equal reconciliation
        regret does not equal repentance

  5. Reblogged this on Speakingtruthinlove's Blog.

  6. marriedwithouthusband

    My interpretation of Honestly’s question is the following: is it bad to let a person who has hurt you know that he or she has hurt you, in case he or she is the kind of person who takes satisfaction from knowing that his or her attempts at harm have been successful? I feel this way about my former father-in-law; I think it would give him pleasure to know how his statements and actions harmed my marriage to his son.

    • Honestly

      I’m meant to tell the right person not someone else who was abusive or someone collecting data on abusers because I’ve met women who’s perception was totally changed by this type of person as if nothing ever happened –

    • E

      We had to go no contact with dear friends who were deceived and being used as data miners for the abuser. We did not share our hurts and his evil manipulations with them, but we did share with others for support. The friends did later awaken to the true state of things, and helped put evil away. It took a painful while though. The friends had been cunningly targeted for deception for years, and had not known us long. We did not hold it against them, though it was maddeningly frustrating.

      • Thanks E — I think your comment will give other readers insight into how crafty abusers can be when they are trying to enlist allies.

        May pastors, elders, and well-meaning-but-naive bystanders who might be following this blog read your comment and learn from your experience!

      • Honestly

        Yes E, plenty of lies during and after this mesmerizing program. This is an experiment and every country has it’s version, so it is not even national security. Men were willing participants. Shame on the church for bowing to man instead of obeying God. Imagine if the men had said no and learned what we were up against and how to stop or avoid it without abusing women.
        – “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat” –

  7. bright sunshinin' day

    Jeff and Barb, great post!

    As sheep, learning to hear and follow The Shepherd’s voice and identifying and exposing the impostors or wolves is wise and our Christian duty.

    “Love your neighbor as yourself” not only involves giving that cup of cold water to our enemy, but also knowing when NOT to give it to protect others and ourselves from harm. Valuing and preserving life by exposing the wolf is not vengeance, but obedience to God’s law.

    Barb, in a recent post you mentioned, “Hurting People Hurt People” (see excerpt below), it reminds us of the only One who can change a wolf to a sheep. It helps us identify these wolves…who have mixed a little truth with their lie and have crept into the sheep fold to do harm (dressed in their sheep costume, of course). Jude 12-13 describes these dangerous creatures this way:

    When these people eat with you in your fellowship meals commemorating the Lord’s love, they are like dangerous reefs that can shipwreck you. They are like shameless shepherds who care only for themselves. They are like clouds blowing over the land without giving any rain. They are like trees in autumn that are doubly dead, for they bear no fruit and have been pulled up by the roots. They are like wild waves of the sea, churning up the foam of their shameful deeds. They are like wandering stars, doomed forever to blackest darkness.

    Identifying these “doubly dead” individuals, naming their deeds, and taking action to protect the true sheep at the “fellowship meals” is what Jude is instructing his readers to do. If there is no repentance when a wolf is confronted, and instead, continues to abuse using a pattern of deception, anger, manipulation, crocodile tears (https://cryingoutforjustice.com/2012/12/27/crocodile-tears/) etc, this individual needs to be cast out… in protection of the sheep and hopes that one day the wolf himself will repent. This is love, not vengeance.

    Only the Holy Spirit can change these “doubly dead” individuals and make them “new creations.” Targets of abuse do not have this power! We are not God. When the Holy Spirit has done a redeeming work in someone’s heart and has changed their very nature it will be obvious! The wolf will no longer need his “sheep” costume for he will no longer be a wolf, but a true lamb who admits who he once was, who desires to get help, and who will demonstrate the fruit of repentance due to his new nature (with no strings attached)! (See Saul’s conversion in Acts 9).

    This excerpt from the post Hurting People Hurt People reminds us that wolves eat sheep (thus, are dangerous) and the only One who can regenerate these creatures is the Holy Spirit! —

    I don’t care why hurting people hurt people (I really do, but I’ll get to that). You know why wolves try to eat sheep? Because they are wolves. Taking them to 12 step programs and asking the sheep to find them good counselors who can help them cope with the fact that their daddy was made a pelt when he was a pup will NOT protect the sheep. Only being made a new creation will protect the sheep (and that’s what I care about, their being made a new creation – by the Holy Spirit, not their targets). Their wolfish behavior alerts us to their need of Christ, not their need of pity.

    It isn’t the targets’ responsibility to get the abusers to help. It’s not our responsibility to understand WHY they abuse except in cases where it’ll help us to make better boundaries and protect those in our care. It is the ABUSER’S responsibility to get help. If he sees that he’s wrong and wants to change, there are people who can help him.

    • lonelywife07

      Amen!!!

  8. cindy burrell

    “When reviled, He did not revile in return…”

    The word “revile” essentially means “to verbally abuse.” So when being verbally abused, Jesus was not abusive in return… Of course not! But He did identify the wickedness and the lies (and those telling them) and spoke powerful, uncompromising truth! That is precisely what we are called to do.

  9. jesusfollowingishard

    It doesn’t quite go with the article but perhaps it does. I’ve been separated for some time and will be divorced. He was/is spiritually/emotionally abusive. He tells people I hit him. He bases that lie off of this that happened ten years ago 😕…

    [Note from Eds — the story had to be redacted as it might have identified the commenter if her abuser was reading this site. The story was about how the abusive husband has spun a lie out of a filament of truth of what happened once, years ago. In the incident years ago, she, the commenter, was in no way being abusive to her husband; what she did was in no way demonstrating a pattern of coercive control springing from a mentality of entitlement to mistreat her husband. What she did in that incident was totally understandable and acceptable behaviour in the context. And it wasn’t mean or cruel or unjust in any way. There is no way it could be characterised as abuse. But this husband has spun from this tiny incident a whole monstrous picture which is a lie and which falsely accuses the wife of being an abuser. And he tells this lie to lot of people, especially his family members. ]

    Do I try to explain next time he stops in with his mother? – his mother says she knows I hit him. Ugh. Or do I ignore them with zero emotional contact?

    • I had to redact your story for your safety.
      Do you try to explain next time he stops in with his mother? I think the chances are it would backfire on you. If he were there, he would cut you, block you, deny what you were saying, and probably win his mother over to his false view even more.

      It is probably safer for you to ignore them with zero emotional contact. If you do talk to his mother privately, probe very gently to see if she might have any doubts about her son’s character and his account of the marriage. If she has doubts, you can gently probe to see how much she might be willing to hear another point of view. But go slowly. And be prepared for her to shut down and turn back against you. Most often the abuser’s mother will side with the abuser. Not always, but quite often.

    • TruthBknown

      You are not alone or responsible. I was also verbally abused. My now ex-husband would get physically in my face and taunt me to the point where I literally froze in fear. One time I felt threatened and slapped his face. He ran away yelling in front of my daughter that he was calling the police, and he did. He did the same thing telling everyone and made it sound like I was the problem. His family will not speak to me. This is how a woman would defend herself from unwanted advances and under the covert abuse I defended myself.

  10. jesusfollowingishard

    Thank you for the reply, wisdom in that for sure. Plus she is controlling and gaslights towards me I’ve seen it so it is best I step back. Thank you for your beautiful reply, i had some thoughts of maybe I am an awful person maybe I can’t see how bad I am, I hate to admit I felt some confusion, not much just a little.

    • Don’t feel bad about feeling that bit of confusion. Even Jeff and I can get that kind of feeling if we are subjected to heavy attack from people who are defending the big-shot false-teachers we expose on this blog. In our experience, whenever we mull over such attacks, think them though, go back and review the evidence we have about the big-shot’s work – that confusion always dissipates and we end up being even more certain that we did the right thing in exposing the false teachers and holding them accountable.

      In your case, you’re not yet safe enough to expose the wicked and foolish individuals who are lying about you and believing the lies about you that others are disseminating. But from where Jeff and I are now, with both of us co-leading the blog, checking each other’s work, moderating each other when need be, and neither of us subject to high risk from our former abusers, we are (by God’s grace) able to expose the big-shots.

      • springofwater

        I wonder if we will ever be “safe enough to expose the wicked and foolish individuals who are lying about (us) and believing the lies…” When will it be safe in the church?   I’ve only been physically safe for months. It still doesn’t feel safe to be outside where i could be in his reach. And talking about him to others doesn’t feel safe either; they don’t understand abuse and often just hurt me more with their ignorant answers. I’m finding it beginning to be easier to tell people the facts, but safe?? Not there yet.

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