They say, “Revenge is a dish best served cold.” In the film ‘The Princess Bride,” there is a line at the end of the movie that I never gave much attention. Inigo Montoya says, “Is very strange. I have been in the revenge business so long, now that it’s over, I don’t know what to do with the rest of my life.”
Now, I’ve seen this movie literally dozens of times, but this line began to grab my attention only recently. This character had made his life’s ambition about avenging his father’s death. He trained very diligently in swordplay so that he’d be ready when he met his father’s killer. He even memorized the lines he would recite during the confrontation. Inigo dedicated his whole life to revenge. By the end of the film, his vengeance complete, he’s left with a sense of meaninglessness.
If you’re alive and aware, you know that our country is politically divided. While this is not new, what seems to be new is the impulse to carry out revenge on those who differ from us. Revenge today is worked out in different ways. People are losing their jobs for expressing themselves in a way that some do not find favorable (so called “cancel culture”). Big tech is banning folks from social media platforms for expressing opinions they find objectionable. Others are making lists of people who supported a candidate, a cause, or a way of thinking that they find disagreeable with the intent of punishing, boycotting, shaming, or doxing them. Since these stories tend to be juicy and salacious, they get a lot of play in the media.
Not long ago, we would hear our leaders say, “We need to have a national conversation about (insert subject here).” Now we just hear things like, “The other side is on the wrong side of history, and they need to be punished for what they believe.” Some of the more extreme types even claim having a certain opinion is akin to mental illness. What good can come of this?
God has a great deal to say about revenge and its destructive nature in our lives (well over 100 passages of Scripture in the Bible). Allow me to give you just one example: In the New Testament (written for people who follow Jesus Christ), the Apostle Paul wrote, “See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone (1 Thessalonians 5:15).”
First, you may believe that someone else’s opinion is “evil.” But ask yourself this question, “Is that other person really meaning to hurt others or do they have a difference of opinion?” Second, even if you sincerely believe that the other person is intending to do evil (which is likely rare), you are to respond with goodness toward them. The greatest way to defeat evil is not retaliation but relationship. Get to know that person who thinks differently than you. Respond to them as you would want to be responded to.
Seeking revenge can turn into a full-time job to hurt others. Once that hurt has been inflicted and the revenge is complete, it is folly to think that we can escape the meaninglessness that will follow.
Christians understand that we have offended a Holy God by our sinful lives. God had every right to exact His righteous vengeance upon us. Instead, He chose to love us. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
God has made a way for every human being to escape His vengeance and receive forgiveness and relationship with Him by trusting Jesus Christ as our Savior. What an example for us all today!
Rev. Scott Tiede is senior pastor of Delaware Bible Church.