In the days of the Old Testament under the law it was eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth. Today it seems that it is not much different, do unto others as they have done unto you; render good for good and evil for evil. It is true that we should be agents of good, but should we also be agents of evil?
“Those to whom evil is done, do evil in return.” – W. H. Auden, American Poet
Much of our judicial system had originally been based upon the Mosaic law we find in the Bible. Even our Supreme Court has on its walls and its doors depictions of The 10 Commandments and sculptures of Moses as the preeminent law giver. For any civil society to prosper there must be protection of the innocent and punishment for the perpetrator. That, I believe, is the purpose of such laws that inflict punishment commensurate with the crime. Otherwise, without a proper deterrent, we would have chaos.
But today’s quote is not about justice, it’s about revenge, and those two things are very different. Jesus teaches us that we should be wise as serpents yet harmless as doves. Wise in that we keep ourselves from evil doers, and harmless that we do not seek revenge on those who have injured us. That’s a very tall order, to not want to get back at those who have wronged you, seemingly letting them off the hook. Not only does the New Testament teach us to not seek vengeance, Jesus tells us to pray for those who have hurt us.
But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you. – Matthew 5:44 KJV
Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. – Romans 12:19 KJV
Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you. – Matthew 5: 11-12 KJV
So today, we live in a country that is governed, rightly so, by the rule of law. Therefore we are subject to the laws of this land, and we should also use such laws to protect ourselves and our interests. It is perfectly acceptable to seek justice under the laws of our country. However, in our hearts, for the true disciple of Christ, we must not return evil for evil, for God himself will repay those who harm His people with His righteous judgment. Although it does not come easy, pray for your enemies, do good to those who are not nice to you, for God has promised us a reward in Heaven.
Read another Bible or Not article about those to whom evil is done.
Born in England in 1907 and naturalized as an American citizen in 1946, W. H. Auden was highly regarded as one of the great writers of the 20th century. You can learn more about Auden here.