A female driver told on the radio how she had once hunted for somewhere to leave her car in a road totally occupied on either side, when a space was suddenly cleared just ahead of her. She made several unsuccessful attempts to reverse into it, aware of the red-faced driver waiting in frustration behind her. When he pulled out, she assumed he was going to leave the scene; but he braked and smoothly reversed into that available space. As he walked briskly away from her angry protests, he raised an insulting finger. So, in his absence, she slashed his tyres and etched the rudest word she could think of in his paint work before resuming her search, feeling sheer pleasure in her act of revenge. Her crime is a perfect example of what the Bible calls ‘the fleeting pleasures of sin’ (Hebrews 11:25).
Such inflicting of damage is surely an extreme expression of rage. Her revenge is understandable. As is another example in Proverbs 6:27-35 which warns any man tempted to commit adultery that ‘he will get wounds and dishonour … For jealousy makes’ the wronged husband ‘furious and he will not spare when he takes revenge.’
Becalmed rage – at great cost
‘Nebuchadnezzar was filled with fury’ against Daniel’s three colleagues who adamantly refused to bow to his towering ‘image of gold’, so he ordered the furnace heated seven times more’ and had them thrown into it (Daniel 3:19-20). However, nothing burned but the bands that bound them as the Son of God walked with them – the one who later would calm ‘the raging waves’ of the Sea of Galilee and the outbursts of a demonized Gerasene on the farther shore (see Luke 8:22-39). It led to the dictator’s conversion to Daniel’s God.
The leper ‘Naaman was angry’ with Elijah for not coming out of doors for a ceremony of cleansing but, instead, merely ‘sent a messenger’ to tell him: ‘Go and wash in the Jordan seven times’ rather than in the superior rivers of his homeland. ‘So he turned and went away in a rage’ (2 Kings 5:11-12). In his case, his army orderlies calmed him down to see sense and repent of his pride, finding complete healing as he exercised humility in his Jordan baptism.
‘Vengeance is mine’, says the Lord
The Christian way to handle strong emotions about personal injustice is: ‘Never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay”, says the Lord. … Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good’ (Romans 12:17-21. It can be costly and initially painful to keep your cool, but in God’s time – or eternity – justice will be done. The storm of divine judgment will overwhelm all outside of the ark of salvation. Jeremiah wrote in unvarnished terms that ‘the day of the Lord God of hosts’ will be ‘a day of vengeance, to avenge himself on his foes’ (Jeremiah 46:9-10). On Calvary that ark was built, and now must be entered.