“…He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.” 2 Peter 3:9 (NLT)
Who does not like to see the bad guy get what is coming to him? God, for one.
A good author or screenwriter can draw us into their story where the forces of good and evil conflict in such a way that we have great expectancy and longing to see the villain’s demise. However, if the evil villain escapes destruction, there is often a sense of disappointment. Whether this results from an innate consciousness of justice or simply a base desire for revenge is undetermined. However, it is one thing to have our emotions manipulated by a good story and quite another thing when it manifests itself in real life.
Indeed, there is a lot of evil in this world, and people have done things, both personally and publicly, which stir up in us a desire to see revenge or justice. Our response might be an indication of how much the life of Christ is present in us.
Justice or Revenge
If it motivates us to seek revenge for evil done to humanity, how much more outraged do we become by those who despise or reject God? Even David, a man who had a heart toward God, spoke definitively about those who hate God. “O LORD, shouldn’t I hate those who hate you? Shouldn’t I despise those who oppose you? Yes, I hate them with total hatred, for your enemies are my enemies.” Psalm 139:21–22 (NLT) He does not appear to wait for God’s answer, but instead, he asked God to check his heart. (Psalm 139:23-24)
The desire to see the destruction of the wicked is a heart check issue. It was conventional wisdom to despise, hate and seek the destruction of those who did evil and opposed God. However, God is not similarly inclined. “Tell them, ‘As sure as I am the living God, I take no pleasure from the death of the wicked. I want the wicked to change their ways and live. Turn your life around! Reverse your evil ways! Why die, Israel?'” Ezekiel 33:11 (MSG)
Conventional Wisdom Flipped Over
Jesus further obliterates the concept that it is acceptable to hate anyone, including our enemies. “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:43–45a (NLT) Take a moment and think of the vilest, reprehensible person imaginable. It could be a tyrant, a mass murderer, or perhaps someone who has hurt you grievously and ask yourself this question. “Would I be offended or disappointed to learn that somehow this person had repented, possibly with their last breath, and that they were welcomed into heaven by Jesus with his arms open wide?”
We Must Guard Our Hearts
It is disgraceful for followers of Christ to curse those with whom they disagree. For example, in past years, Christians have stated that they pray for the President using Psalm 109:8-9, which says, “Let his years be few; let someone else take his position. May his children become fatherless, and his wife a widow.” Instead of seeking someone’s death and leaving orphans and a widow, they should be following Paul’s advice. “Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them.” Romans 12:14 (NLT). Again, is it time for a heart check?
Leave It in the Hands of God
We are not naïve. Evil powers and evil people are in this world, but God cares about them and desires that they come to repentance, and so should we. There are no acceptable exceptions or excuses, and we must follow Christ’s example demonstrated while being persecuted and ultimately put to death. He said: “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.”’ Luke 23:34 (NLT) It is not easy to forgive and even bless those who do evil, particularly when it hits close to home, but if we want God’s heart toward people to guide our thoughts and actions, we must prepare ourselves to let God settle the accounts. After all, that is what Jesus did. “He did not retaliate when he was insulted, nor threaten revenge when he suffered. He left his case in the hands of God, who always judges fairly.” 1 Peter 2:23 (NLT)
Time for Repentance
Our attitude toward evil people is a heart check issue. To be aligned with God’s heart and not savor the destruction of the wicked is what matters.
The desire for justice or settling of scores is deeply rooted in our old nature. For the cause of the gospel, we must nurture and promote the attitude and characteristics consistent with our new nature. We are now a “new creation.” Jesus revolutionized our view of life and relationships when he said, “You have heard that it was said …, But I say to you …,” Jesus revealed God’s heart toward humanity. He does not want to see anyone perish, and neither should we.
For the grace of God has been revealed, bringing salvation to all people. Titus 2:11 (NLT)