Trying to explain Marvel comics to me is like viewing a deer in headlights. Your most elaborate explanation only draws a blank stare. Just ask a friend of mine. Educating me on the various Spiderman movies is a great way to lose my attention.
According to Thomas Frey, a futurist, “We are entering a ‘superhero era.’ Each of us think about superheroes differently, but they are far more than entertainment. For many, they add purpose, meaning, and inspiration to a world often devoid of those qualities.” In other words, Thor and Batman give people hope. Iron Man and Hulk transcend human frailties. It’s a “superhero culture.” And the most popular superhero series of our day is “Avengers.”
It’s the word—not the movie—that intrigues me. This week, I’m writing about the ultimate avenger.
Consider the words of the apostle Paul, who writes, “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” (Rom. 12:19-21 ESV).
This text is full of cross references. Paul mentions both Deuteronomy 32:35 and Proverbs 25:21-22. There’s something significant about what he says. Let’s dig into these verses together.
First of all, it should be noted that the wrath of God is a real deal. As the Bible says, “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming” (Col. 3:5-6 ESV). Sin has no place in the presence of God. But through Jesus Christ, we have great hope. And in Him, there’s forgiveness of sins. By the blood of Christ, we can have right standing with God. But for those who reject Him, the wrath of God is sure to come.
Secondly, as Paul emphasizes, there is such thing as being wronged. People hurt other people. And Paul encourages Christians to refrain from avenging themselves. Instead, they should trust God to handle the situation as He knows best. He is the ultimate avenger.
The apostle Paul ends with a striking admonition. Quoting the wise words of Solomon, Paul advises us to treat our enemies with respect. To feed them when they’re hungry. To satisfy their thirst. And when we do, shame falls upon their heads. Jesus himself commands us to love our enemies and pray for our persecutors (see Matt. 5:44).
Let’s say that someone does you wrong. Ignores your voice. Refuses to listen. And causes you pain. How do you respond? You choose to love him anyway. You refuse to seek revenge. You don’t need to prove a point. You look past every opportunity to pay her back. And recognize that your decision to remain silent does more damage than the fiercest of blows. It sounds crazy. Downright ridiculous. But that’s what Jesus Christ did for you. And that, my friend, is a true sign of humility.
Let me show you.
At the end of Matthew, Jesus is arrested and placed before Caiaphas, the high priest. The Bible says, “Now the chief priests and the whole council were seeking false testimony against Jesus that they might put him to death, but they found none, though many false witnesses came forward” (Matt. 26:59-60 ESV).
Jesus is being wronged. Massively wronged. And He has every right to avenge himself. What’s more? He has the power to avenge himself. While being arrested, Jesus says, “‘Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels?’” (v. 53 ESV). But Jesus allows the people to arrest Him. Why? Because He desires to fulfill the Scriptures (v. 54).
And now, as He waits before the high priest, all kinds of false accusations are being said against Him. How does He respond to being wronged in such a way? The Bible says, “But Jesus remained silent.” (v. 63 ESV). The word spoken by the prophet hundreds of years before (see Isa. 53:7). Quite unlike Peter who chops a guy’s ear off with a sword while Jesus is being arrested (see John 18:10). Instead of avenging himself, Jesus surrenders to the will of His Father.
And if we’re honest, we realize that we, too, are responsible for the death of Jesus. Because of our sin, Jesus is falsely accused and condemned to die. Yet He remains silent.
Why? Not because God is calling us to cowardice. His intention is not for us to be wimpy Christians who allow people to run all over us. That’s not my message. Instead, God is challenging us to trust Him instead of placing it upon ourselves to “get revenge.” There are times when fending for ourselves is necessary. But sometimes, we need to keep our mouths shut. Love our enemies. Pray for their repentance. And trust the Lord to settle the matter.
After all, God is the ultimate avenger.