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
“Dearly beloved.” What comforting words! To me, these words along with the words “my little children” John likes to use are some of the most calming, comforting words in all the Bible. Why do you think Paul places in THIS verse these calming, loving, comforting words? I believe it may be because he knew some of his readers would need to have their wrath and bitterness quieted by words of peace. I know I’ve had my fair share of days of anger and bitterness. Most likely there will be someone reading this today who is overcome of anger and bitterness toward someone. Dearly beloved, do you have anger in your heart today? Do you have bitterness that is slowly depriving you of joys? Dearly beloved, this verse is for us.
“Avenge not yourselves.” This is the fourth time Paul addresses our actions toward our enemies. In verse 14 we find how we are to act toward them in word. In verse 17 we read how we are to act toward them in honor. In verse 18 we find we are to blameless in relations with them. In our verse today, we see how we are to act toward them in forgiveness. “Avenge not yourselves” is a command very similar to the command we looked at in verse 17, “Recompense to no man evil for evil” (for more on this, see Our Actions: Live Honorably).
What Paul highlights in this verse is what comes next – “but rather give place unto wrath.” I’ve heard people interpret this wrath in three ways:
- the wrath of ourselves
- the wrath of our enemies
- the wrath of God
The Bible does indeed teach us to give way to all three of these wraths. As far as the immediate interpretation goes, it’s not clear to me if there was one, single wrath Paul was focusing on. The first part of the verse can point to OUR wrath AND our ENEMIES’ wrath, but the second part of the verse highlights GOD’s wrath. It may be that Paul intended on us viewing this verse in all three contexts. Either way, I believe it would do us well to look at how we are to give place to wrath in each of these ways. Today we will just briefly look at the first wrath we are to give place to – ours.
Dearly beloved, are you right now angry at someone? Are you bitter at how someone has treated you? The Bible teaches us how we are to handle our anger. The Bible doesn’t necessarily teach us that we are never to be angry. It does, however, teach us how to CONTROL our anger. We’ll look at five points today on this subject.
Firstly, we are to be slow to anger. We are told many, many times throughout the Bible that our Lord is slow to anger – Joel 2:13, Psalm 145:8, and Jonah 2:13 just to name a FEW. We are also told to be slow to anger. We are told in Proverbs 15:18 “But he that is slow to anger appeaseth strife.” Proverbs also tells us in Proverbs 16:32, “He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty . . .” Isn’t it a shame that our carnal nature may be given to a quick anger when our Lord is slow to anger with us? I must confess. This is an area I used to battle a lot. If someone did something I did not like at all or especially if it was done TO get me angry, I was given to short-temperedness. The Lord helped me to let go of this. Being short-tempered never did me any good. It really helped me a lot when something dawned on me. The things that someone else does to me that make me angry can’t compare to the degree of sin I’ve committed against my Lord. My Lord is slow to anger. If you want to claim the Bible teaches us it’s OK to be angry, you must confess that there is NEVER a time to be short-tempered. If you ARE going to be angry, it must be controlled
Secondly, we must be ready to forgive. Colossians 3:!3 says, “Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.” If you have a quarrel against someone, you are to be ready to forgive. We MUST be ready to forgive. If you are angry and bitter at someone RIGHT NOW, it may be that you haven’t forgiven them. God has forgiven US, ought we not to be given to forgiveness?
Thirdly, our anger should not be seething. When I picture bitterness, I picture a seething, boiling anger. Hebrews 12:15 goes even deeper into this. We must look diligently lest we be defiled by a root of bitterness. If you want to get rid of a weed from your garden, you must pull it up by the root. Else, the weed will just come up again. I’ve heard people claim Ephesians 4:26 as a verse that allows them to be angry, but their anger is more characterized by bitterness and seething anger. Friend, if you have an anger toward someone because of what they did to you, and this anger is keeping you from enjoying the blessings of the GRACE and MERCY of God, you need to get rid of it. You’ve done much worse to our Lord. It’s great to know He doesn’t have a seething anger towards His children.
Fourthly, our anger should not last longer than a day. Ephesians 4:26 says, “Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath.” This verse has helped me SO many times. I mentioned I used to battle short-temperedness, but I also fought lasting bitterness as well. It wasn’t until I started making this verse shape my prayers before I went to bed that the Lord gave me some victory of this. Before I went to sleep, I double-checked to make sure there wasn’t anything or anyone I was angry about. Then, if there was something I was angry about, I had to give it up and forgive. This helped me to sleep better and live better. Yes, from time to time I still struggle with anger and bitterness, but it’s been a while since it lasted more than a day. Thanks be to my precious Lord who still gives VICTORY. He’s been so good to me.
Lastly, the anger Ephesians 4:26 and Romans 12:19 refers to NEVER, NEVER, NEVER comes with actions. Ephesians 4:26 says, “be ye angry, AND SIN NOT.” Romans 12:19 says that vengeance belongs to the LORD! There is NEVER a time when it is OK to let an action be performed out of anger. This is part of a bigger, very very important doctrine of Christian living. Our actions toward others should not be fueled from our fleshly feelings. Ideally, our actions should be directed by the Holy Spirit. It is WRONG for a parent to punish their child as a result of their ANGER. That’s fleshly and carnal. It is RIGHT, however, for a parent to punish their child out of Biblical LOVE, channeled by Scriptural principles. Father, mother, it is not a spiritual characteristic to be short-tempered when your child does something wrong. If the child does something wrong, the child should be punished by a parent with a CONTROLLED, LOVING disposition. We are to be slow to anger. We can be angry at others’ sins, yes, but Biblical anger for the Born-Again Believer has no actions.