The Leader and Emotion: Vengeance

When someone has opposed your leadership, have you ever wished you could just hit them in the face? Or, knowing that action doesn’t sound very Christian, did you wish God would do the same?

Every leader has moments when the natural response is to take revenge and see someone else suffer. David certainly had these times in his life as he experienced opposition from many different places. Psalm 109 records one of these situations.  

1My God, whom I praise, do not remain silent, 2for people who are wicked and deceitful have opened their mouths against me; they have spoken against me with lying tongues. 3With words of hatred they surround me; they attack me without cause. 4In return for my friendship they accuse me, but I am a man of prayer. 5They repay me evil for good, and hatred for my friendship. 6Appoint someone evil to oppose my enemy; let an accuser stand at his right hand.  When he is tried, let him be found guilty, and may his prayers condemn him. 8May his days be few; may another take his place of leadership. 9May his children be fatherless and his wife a widow. 10May his children be wandering beggars; may they be driven from their ruined homes. 11May a creditor seize all he has; may strangers plunder the fruits of his labor…. 27Let them know that it is your hand, that you, LORD, have done it. 28While they curse, may you bless; may those who attack me be put to shame, but may your servant rejoice. 29May my accusers be clothed with disgrace and wrapped in shame as in a cloak. 30With my mouth I will greatly extol the LORD; in the great throng of worshippers I will praise him. 31For he stands at the right hand of the needy, to save their lives from those who would condemn them (Psalm 109:1-11; 27-31).

Vengeance should be recognized. David recognizes what he is feeling. He wants revenge! He wants those who oppose him to suffer! Vengeance is a strong emotion that stirs up intense feelings.

Many leaders would prefer not to acknowledge these kinds of feelings since they seem so wrong. But servant leaders learn to recognize vengeance. They acknowledge that it is better to recognize vengeance than to pretend it does not exist.

Vengeance should be revealed. David recognizes his emotion and writes it down for all of us to see! (There is more revealed if you take time to read the entire chapter!) Although David is a “leader after God’s own heart,” he is secure enough to be honest with what he feels and to share this with everyone.

Many Christian leaders find this emotion difficult to reveal since it seems so negative and so unlike Christ. What will others think about me if I reveal what I am feeling? Yet, until vengeance is revealed it cannot be redeemed. Servant leaders learn to reveal vengeance knowing that as they do, God will be able to direct them to deal with it in an appropriate way.

Vengeance should be restrained. While David revealed his desire for vengeance on his enemies, he fortunately did not act on his feelings! Instead, he goes to worship with others. As he worships, David understands that it is God who will “save their lives from those who would condemn them.”

Servant leaders learn to restrain their vengeance. They don’t allow their leadership position to become a place to attack their enemies. They learn to join with others in worship and turn their desire for revenge over to God. He is the only one that can save us from those who condemn us as He also saves us from the poison of revenge in our own hearts.

Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler

For further reflection and discussion:

  • When is the last time I was hurt and really wanted revenge? What situation produced this emotion? Did I acknowledge and reveal my emotion or pretend it wasn’t there? Did I take it to God and ask Him to deliver me from the poison of revenge in my own heart?
  • Reflect on Romans 12:17-21. What does it mean to “leave room for God’s wrath”? How can God change my heart so that I am able to bless my enemy? 
  • Is it possible for our desire for vengeance to be in line with God’s judgement of wickedness? How do we know when our hearts and His are aligned?