Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Revenge: The Earliest Sign of Sin

As we begin reading through the Bible in one year, already we see connections in Genesis with the story and teachings of the Bible as a whole. In Genesis 3, Adam and Eve enter a life of sin and so does their offspring. Their first son, Cain, is jealous of his brother, Abel, and of the favor God shows to Abel. Cain is warned by God that "sin crouches at (his) door and desires to have him (Genesis 4:7)." Nevertheless, Cain, overcome by jealousy, ignores the warning and kills his brother Abel. From the earliest chapters of the Bible, we begin to see signs of sin in humanity that we wrestle with today - jealousy, pride, anger, and revenge.

The great-great grandson of Cain, Lamech, continues the family tradition and is even proud of the fact that he is a vengeful man. In Genesis 4:24, he boasts to his wives, "If Cain is avenged seven times, then Lamech seventy-seven times (or seventy times seven)." Here, we see a connection with the story of the Bible as a whole and with the teachings of Jesus in the Gospels. In Matthew 18, Jesus is asked by Peter how many times he is to forgive his brother. Peter asks in verse 21, "up to seven times?" Jesus replies in verse 22, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy seven times (or seventy times seven)."

Jesus, in his teaching, hearkens back to the beginning of our human story and tells his followers that God desires for us to be a people of forgiveness rather than a people of revenge. This thread of teaching is found throughout the Old Testament, the Gospels and the New Testament. Note the following verses from the New International Version.

Leviticus 19:18 - "Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord."

Proverbs 24:29 - "Do not say, 'I'll do to him as he has done to me; I'll pay that man back for what he did.'"

Matthew 5:43-44 - "You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you: 'Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.'"

Romans 12:14, 17-19 - "Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone."

1 Thessalonians 5:15 - "Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else."

1 Peter 3:9 - "Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing."

The connections we see throughout the Bible are wonderful to recognize. But most important to us is how we apply what we learn to our daily living. Today's lesson: Do not seek revenge, but seek to bless others - even those who curse or persecute you. Whereas revenge is a sign of our sin and brokenness, blessing (through love and prayer) is a sign of becoming a new creation through Jesus Christ.