Are You Seeking Justice or Revenge?

Years ago, I worked at a place where I was deeply hurt. I’ll spare you the sorted details; I’ll just say that I was physically, spiritually, and emotionally drained when I finally transitioned. What happened next was something I didn’t expect. I got angry.

I never considered myself an angry person. But I was. After years of feeling mistreated, not supported, and honestly, lonely, I couldn’t process my pain in any other way than in anger. I found myself replaying situations in my head, retelling stories to those closest to me, and reliving the pain of my experience. The more I hit replay, the angrier I became.

I started saying things like, “they need to pay for what they did to me.” And, “I didn’t deserve this; they don’t deserve my forgiveness.” And little by little, the person I once was became consumed with getting justice for my pain.

Except, what I desired wasn’t justice at allit was revenge.

Justice, at its very core, means “to make right.” It’s a relational term that demands a price be paid for the wrongs committed, so that right relationship can exist. With that definition, it would seem like “justice” was the right word to use in that situation. The issue is, as a follower of Jesus, the cry for justice must be motivated by something more than my own feelings.

See, I wasn’t interested in just “feeling better” or even an apology. I didn’t want to be friends with those who hurt me. I didn’t even entertain the thought of forgiving them. I wanted three years of my life back. I wanted to see them hurt exactly how I was hurting. I wanted to keep my job, my home & the people who I loved, instead of moving away. I wanted them to lose it all, just like I had.

Here’s the problem: none of what I wanted would fix my pain, make it right, or bring right relationship. None of what I wanted was actually justice.

I’m sure that I’m not the only one who’s ever experienced these feelings. Whether a big or small offense, the pain is very real. But in our pain, we need to be cautious that we are seeking justice, and not revenge. There’s a fine line, but a world of difference, between them.

  • Revenge might feel good in the moment, but leaves you feeling empty; Justice brings lasting peace.
  • Revenge insights bring harm toward the one who hurt you; Justice brings people into right relationship.
  • Revenge is motivated by anger, fear, frustration & pain; Justice is motivated by the heart of God.
  • Revenge leads to more pain; Justice makes things right.

So how do you seek justice? Look to Christ.

Jesus, though he was completely blameless, experienced injustice on the cross. He was punished for wrongs he didn’t commit so that the guilty could be set free (2 Corinthians 5:21). But his death did more than give us freedom; it brought us back into right relationship with God.

Through this same sacrificial act, God promised to bring true justice in all things. He is continually working to bring the whole world into right relationship. When we seek justice outside of knowing Christ, we risk seeking revenge. We become motivated by our own versions of justice, which will always be a moving target. But, as we grow in our relationship with Him, we begin to understand His heart for real justice.

It’s normal for all of us to want revenge when we’re hurt, but as followers of Jesus, let’s seek Him for His justice.
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