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Romans 12:19

ESV 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.”
NIV Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: 'It is mine to avenge; I will repay,' says the Lord.
NASB Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written: 'VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY,' says the Lord.
CSB Friends, do not avenge yourselves; instead, leave room for God's wrath, because it is written, Vengeance belongs to me; I will repay, says the Lord.
NLT Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, 'I will take revenge; I will pay them back,' says the Lord.
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.

What does Romans 12:19 mean?

Paul has just written that Christians must not repay evil for evil (Romans 12:17). Now he expands that idea to make it even more clear. Those who follow Christ are commanded to never avenge themselves, to never "get even." Whether the hurt comes from fellow believers or from unbelievers, revenge is simply not a legitimate option for us.

For a change, Paul gives us a reason for this command, and it's a bit surprising. After all the other instructions to sacrifice ourselves for the good of others, we might expect something similar. Instead, Paul writes that we should refuse to take revenge because God is much better at it than we are. In a sense, Paul implies that taking our own revenge may dilute God's opportunity to avenge us in His great anger against those who harm us.

Paul quotes from Deuteronomy 32:35 to show that God has always declared His intention to take vengeance on those who wrong others. A desire for justice for ourselves and those we care about is not wrong. Paul simply wants us to trust God's timing and power to deliver justice as He sees fit.

How do we respond to this idea? On the one hand, we might be concerned that God will show mercy to those who harm us instead of giving them what they deserve. After all, He has shown great mercy to us. Isn't that what God does? The truth is that God executes justice for every sin, including ours. For those in Christ, God's anger was poured out on Jesus on the cross. Someone suffered for those sins: Christ. He experienced what we deserved. Those who refuse to receive Jesus' death in their place for their sin will suffer the consequences for that sin themselves for eternity.

With that punishment in mind, perhaps we will hesitate to wish for God's vengeance on our persecutors. Perhaps not. In either case, God says to us, "Trust me to handle revenge and justice for all who harm you instead of seeking it yourself."
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