Revenge is a Dish Best Served Cold

There’s one line that continues to stick in my mind from one of my favorite Star Trek movies – Star Trek II, The Wrath of Khan. Captain Kirk’s nemesis Khan says: “Ah, Kirk, my old friend, do you know the Klingon proverb that tells us revenge is a dish that is best served cold?” And with that, Khan attacks Kirk and his crew to extract revenge for marooning Khan and Khan’s crew 15 years earlier. What ensues is an epic battle with Kirk and his crew on the starship Enterprise as the good guys, pitted against Khan, a genetically engineered tyrant who is bent on extracting his revenge on Kirk. As it is in Hollywood movies, the good guys ultimately win and outfox Khan, the one who has superior intellect.

You see a picture of how hatred can stew in someone, in this case 15 years in the character of Khan, so that he’s obsessed in taking revenge. It appeared to me that his hatred for the events that happened in his life, consumed him, and drove him over the edge. And although Khan’s reaction is a bit extreme, it speaks to us in our lives. I believe it’s just plain human nature to want to strike back at another who has hurt us. I know my natural inclination is that if someone hurts me (or worse yet, someone I love) is to want to hurt them back. I think about it, and think about it – I dwell on it, I’m so upset about it I cannot sleep. The hurt is amplified and my mood gets darker and darker the longer I dwell on it. For me, it becomes so very easy to want revenge, and the enemy tells me that I will receive oh so much satisfaction in exacting my revenge.

Have you ever exacted revenge against someone? If so, how did you ultimately feel after you’ve extracted your revenge? Did it feel good directly after? I’m thinking probably yes. But as time went by, when you think back about it how did it make you feel? I’m thinking that the answer is probably not so good.

What does our guidebook, the Bible, have to say about revenge and hatred? Well, it has plenty to say. In Isaiah 5:20 we are told “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” To me this verse confirms that evil equates with darkness. And, the spirit of darkness and the spirit of God are at opposite ends of the spectrum, look at 1 John 1:5 “This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.” We as Christians are commanded to walk in the light (1 John 1:7). So how can we walk in the light if our heart is consumed over wanting revenge against someone who hurt us? To dwell in that hatred, harms our relationship with God, and it spills over our into our relationships with others as well – ruining our witness and discrediting our faith. It separates us from God.

God is the ultimate judge, and if we move to take revenge against another we are acting in the place of God. I don’t know about you, but I could never ever take the place of God. Therefore, our response should always be to turn to God, lay the matter in His hands. Tell Him your hurt, tell Him about the betrayal, ask Him to exact His justice. Then lay it down, and walk away from that hurt. I know, it’s much easier said than done. And it will be hard work. He then relieves us of the burden of taking matters into our own hands. Romans 12:19 says “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” He will take the just and rightful actions on those who perform evil works against us. Since God’s nature is pure, ours is not, we can be sure that whatever punishment is received is proper. And, we can move forward with a clear conscience and in a right relationship with God.

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