If you think God has no wrath you do not understand the power of His love. What kind of loving Father sees his children slaughtered and does not feel outrage?
Yet he tells his people not to avenge themselves. Romans 12:
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.”
Instead he asks his children to respond in the most counter-intuitive way possible!
To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.”
For those thousands of people around the world who trust in him and who are seeing their children beheaded and their fathers burned, and their mothers raped and the enemy surrounding their city this seems like an incredibly impossible request. But there s a reason. When we fight darkness with darkness we ourselves are overcome by evil.
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Evil brings it own kind of blindness. It lies to us. It keeps us from seeing who the real enemy is. The idea of heaping burning coals on someone’s head is to give them something to carry home and start their own fires with. It is a gift of light and warmth that allows them to change their thinking and breaks the cycle of revenge.
If we take revenge for very real cruel acts of hateful persecution we risk killing the very people Jesus came to save — hostages of the evil one who have been his captives for so long they have believed his lies. They are delusional. Mental health workers will tell you some of the most difficult people to work with are those who suffer from paranoid delusions because they fear the very ones who want to see them healed. There are times, when for the sake of safety of others (and themselves) when they need to be restrained, but it is always understood that their reactions are the result of working under the assumptions of a lie. Many persecutors are operating under the assumption of a lie perpetrated by the father of lies -the god of this world – the real enemy -satan. That’s where God’s wrath is directed.
It is so easy to be captured by the spirit you oppose. There are genuinely evil people out there who have deliberately chosen to be the devil’s servants. And there are wounded people who have been deceived. God sees the heart. That’s one reason He says he is in charge of vengeance. When we fight darkness with darkness we are contaminated by the lie. We are called to walk in the light.
Today I was moved almost beyond belief when I heard the story of a mother and her children in Baghdad asking to be baptized even as the city is surrounded by troops hell-bent on killing people who identify as believers in Christ. They ask this even as Iraqi soldiers surrounding their enclave have said that they are prepared to discard their uniforms and run. Where does that kind of courage this woman has demonstrated come from? Would my trust in the Eternal goodness of God be so great that I would do that under the same circumstances?
Would I be willing, like the brother of a man who had been chopped to pieces in Mozambique by those who opposed the message of salvation in Christ, to approach them and say, “You can cut my body into a thousand pieces and everyone will cry out, ‘Jesus Christ loves you.'” The entire village turned to Christ.
Love like this is more powerful than all the bombs in the world.
Praying for courage and profound world-changing love in the persecuted church around the world today –especially in Iraq. May they see the glory of the Lord as God’s will is done on earth as it is in heaven.
Lord hear our cry! In the Name of Jesus who bowed the heavens and came down.
I love you, O Lord, my strength.
The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer,
my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge,
my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised,
and I am saved from my enemies.
The cords of death encompassed me;
the torrents of destruction assailed me;
the cords of Sheol entangled me;
the snares of death confronted me.
In my distress I called upon the Lord;
to my God I cried for help.
From his temple he heard my voice,
and my cry to him reached his ears.
Then the earth reeled and rocked;
the foundations also of the mountains trembled
and quaked, because he was angry.
Smoke went up from his nostrils,
and devouring fire from his mouth;
glowing coals flamed forth from him.
He bowed the heavens and came down…