“Fool that I am, that I did not tear out my heart the day I resolved to revenge myself…. Hatred is blind; rage carries you away; and he who pours out vengeance runs the risk of tasting a bitter draught.” ― Alexandre Dumas, The Count of Monte Cristo
Dumas’ Count of Monte Cristo is a brilliant exposition of the Bible’s warning, ‘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.”’ (Romans 12:19) As Edmond Dantes sets out to avenge himself on the three men responsible for his imprisonment and ruin, he learns a terrible lesson — that the law of unintended consequences makes mere mortals poorly suited to avenge themselves in the name of perfect justice. Dantes finds that his attempts to gain personal justice for the injustice done to him perverts justice and multiplies injustice toward others. Every twist and turn of his perfectly planned and executed revenge meets with an unintended tragic end.
We are exhorted in scripture to be merciful to the wicked and ungrateful, as our Father in Heaven is merciful to us. When the God commands men in the Bible to exact “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” it is with a view toward limiting vengeance and not encouraging it. The warning is not to take a head for an eye or a life for a tooth. God is perfectly just, but he is also a God of mercy and he calls us to act likewise.
But this is a great challenge for us who live in a world filled with injustice, abuse, and evil. Can we trust God’s justice and vengeance? Or must we take matters into our own hands? How are we to respond when we endure abuse, injustice and evil as individuals and a people? What is our duty? What are our limitations? These are hard questions, often with no easy answers.
Genesis 34 details the terrible account of the rape of Dinah, Jacob’s daughter. Her wealthy and prominent abuser engages in an attempted cover-up, but seems sincere in remorse. Her father seems wracked by inaction. And her brothers avenge a terrible crime with an even more heinous and far-reaching response. No one in the story sought counsel from God. None of these responses forms a biblical precept for responding to abuse, but rather paradigmatic antithesis. The failure of Jacob, Hamor, Shechem and Jacob’s sons to bring proper resolution is a foil for what is to come – the gospel. In the gospel we find a God who is both just and merciful. He alone can provide justice tempered with mercy, reconciliation and restoration in response to injustice, abuse and evil.
Join us this Lord’s Day, February 18, as we examine Genesis 34 and this consider how we respond to injustice, abuse and evil. We meet from 5:00 – 6:30 pm in The Commons at St. Andrews Anglican Church at 8300 Kanis Rd in Little Rock. Click here for directions.
Come with a friend you and join us for fellowship and conversation. We look forward to seeing you there.