I’m usually not the first one to a theater to see a new movie. In fact, I might be the last person. It is for this reason that spoilers don’t really bother me. By the time I see a movie, it will have been talked about for a while. All that to say, I finally got around to seeing Captain America: Civil War. For the most part, I thought it was entertaining. I don’t follow all the plot stories like most people who really love Marvel movies. Instead, I usually walk away from movies being entertained and in thought with a quote or something that stood out, and this movie was no different.
Towards the end of the movie there was an interaction between the villain and one of the superheroes, Black Panther. The villain, who’s wife and son were accidentally killed by the Avengers, talk about how he knew he couldn’t kill the Avengers to get revenge. Instead, he would plan a way to get them to turn against each other and do the job for him. And therein lies the title, Captain America: Civil War. The Black Panther, whose father was killed by the villain, responded by saying, “Vengeance has consumed you. It’s consuming them, but I’m done letting it consume me. Justice will come soon enough.”
I couldn’t help but dwell on this line. And as I though about it, I thought about how many people either don’t believe justice is coming or believe that vengeance is their. They think that it is their responsibility to seek justice and get even. However, this is not the view that is taught by Scripture and Christians should be different.
But some may say, “How am I supposed to forget about what they have done to me?” “How am I supposed to forgive them?” I think these thoughts come to mind because we have an incorrect view of forgiveness. Forgiveness does not condone or diminish behavior. It isn’t saying that what they did is okay. Forgiveness does not eliminate consequences. We can forgive people and there can still be consequences. And last, forgiveness does not depend on whether or not the offender is truly sorry. We don’t have to wait around for the person to say “sorry” before we can forgive them. Instead, as Ephesians 4:32 says, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” Christ forgave us and so we need to forgive. And then, we trust that justice will come.
In the book, Desperate Hope, Rose Pauly explains this concept in a very personal and beautiful way. The book describes an event where a man came into her house and assaulted her at knifepoint. By the grace of God she escaped without harm, but she still had to process what happened. Should she seek revenge? Was she supposed to forgive this man? If so, how is that possible after what he had done? Here is how she explained that process.
As I worked through unpredictable emotions and wrestled with new realities, I started to realize what forgiveness did mean. It meant I was choosing to release Matt from any debt to me. I didn’t have to use up valuable energy and time to make sure he paid his dues and received his just penalty. I didn’t have to be consumed with his punishment, tied up with desire for revenge, fretful that the authorities would handle things poorly, anxious that he would get let off the hook, or worried that he would work the system. I could place all of this—and Matt himself—into the hands of God. God, who is a God of justice, would do what was right. Didn’t the Bible confirm this when it says, “Do not repay anyone evil for evil,” and, “Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord.” If there was avenging that needed to be done, then God was very capable to take care of it. And I had to admit, being avenged by God was not something any sane person would choose. I found my own heart again filled with compassion for Matt. Down deep I wanted him to be dealt with mercifully, and continued to pray that God would intervene in his life.
Notice a few things. First, revenge uses up our energy! Unforgiveness only hurts us and planning revenge uses up our energy. We don’t have time for that. We cannot let it consume our lives. Second, it isn’t our job to punish or get revenge. This only makes us anxious and consumes our thoughts. Forgiveness places the person in the hands of God. God commands us to not take revenge because it is His job. Justice will come and it will come from the perfect judge who always does what is right. So, follow the example of the Black Panther and more importantly Scripture and say, “I’m done letting vengeance consume me.” Live a life of freedom in Christ!