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Is God Merciful or Vengeful? Part 2

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If a female is sexually harassed at work by a guy who later apologizes, she should forgive him, right? God says in the Bible that vengeance is His. So will God pay back the guy with vengeance?But if the guy asks for forgiveness, does that mean God will drop the vengeance?But if God drops it, then why does He say, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay”? It doesn’t seem like God really will punish the guy. Please explain this.


Steve Answers:

Last week we talked about the Bible verse you mentioned about God’s vengeance (Deuteronomy 32:35, quoted in Romans 12:19 and Hebrews 10:30). We looked at the context of the statements.Now, to answer your other questions. Will God take revenge on the guy who sexually harassed someone at work—or will He simply drop His vengeance if the guy asks for forgiveness?To find the answers, let’s talk about God’s justice and His mercy.

I know that when somebody does something against me, my initial reaction is to take revenge on them myself. And if I can’t, then I want God to take double revenge on them for me.But when I do something against somebody else, I want God (and the other person) to have mercy on me! I want forgiveness.This is what makes the center of the Lord’s Prayer dangerous: “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (Matthew 6:12). We’re praying for God to forgive us the way we forgive others.Really, I’d rather have God forgive me much more than I forgive others. I want justice against others, and I want mercy for me!

So is God more merciful or more vengeful? In Psalm 103:8-12 David describes Him this way: “The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.”Is God soft on sin, easily forgiving those He’s threatened to vengefully repay? Here’s the answer: “For God took the sinless Christ and poured into him our sins. Then, in exchange, he poured God’s goodness into us!” (2 Corinthians 5:21, TLB).*

What this verse is saying is that Jesus intercepted God’s vengeance. God’s justice has been carried out. But it was carried out on Jesus instead of on us.So as hideous as sexual harassment and other sins are, God’s mercy is available to us because His justice has already been carried out for those who accept His forgiveness.

That’s why I don’t want to keep score on those who do me wrong. When I think of God’s forgiveness for me, I want to leave the vengeance to Him and focus on mercy. How about you?

*Verses marked TLB are taken from The Living Bible, copyright © 1971 by Tyndale House Publishers, Wheaton, Ill. Used by permission.

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