“The LORD made it known to me and I knew; then You showed me their deeds. But I was like a gentle lamb led to the slaughter. I did not know it was against me they devised schemes, saying, “Let us destroy the tree with its fruit, let us cut him off from the land of the living, that his name be remembered no more.” But, O LORD of hosts, who judges righteously, who tests the heart and the mind, let me see Your vengeance upon them, for to You have I committed my cause.” (Jeremiah 11:18-20 ESV)
As Christians, many of us have a hard time with passages like this: “I was like a gentle lamb led to the slaughter. I did not know it was against me they devised schemes … let me see Your vengeance upon them, for to You I have committed my cause.” We have been brought up with the idea of forgiveness and turning the other cheek—what should we do with Jeremiah’s cry to the Lord? It certainly doesn’t sound like forgiveness. It sounds like “Judge them now; I want to watch.”
But if we condemn Jeremiah (or the people around us who say similar things), we might be missing something important. It is true that as Christians we are forbidden to take revenge—forbidden to curse or wish ill on other people—told to pray for our enemies and to show love to them if it ever happens that we can do them a good turn. All of that is true. But none of that invalidates the thirst for justice.
You can see it in young children—the cry, “It’s not fair!” goes up from every playground. As adults in an unfair world, we may not say it, but we think it. God has put the love of justice in our hearts, and we should not stifle it or pretend it doesn’t matter. After all, God knows what we’re thinking anyway!
We can learn from Jeremiah. Angry as he is, he does not take justice into his own hands—he leaves it to the Lord. He is confident that God will deal with this horrible injustice, because God is just and holy. He will not sweep it under the rug. And so Jeremiah expresses his anger but also his trust, and leaves the matter in God’s hands.
You may be in a spot like this yourself right now. Someone, or some group, is doing you wrong, and your heart cries out for justice. You can do what Jeremiah did—call out to God for help, trusting that He will definitely deal with the matter, though in His own way and timing. And then you can move forward with your life, knowing that the matter is being handled—that you can (with God’s help) stop obsessing over it—that you can live the full, free, joyful life that Jesus won for you on the cross and through His resurrection.
It may take time—a lot of time, years even. And you’ll keep praying. But God is faithful, and God will help you. And who knows? In the end, your enemies may have their hearts changed—or not. But either way, you can let go of it, put it in the hands of the Lord, and stop hating those people. You can recover—and live well.
Prayer: Lord, You know the wounds I have suffered unjustly. Please help me, and help me to lean on You as You work with the situation. Amen.
This Daily Devotion was written by Dr. Kari Vo.
Reprinted from Lutheran Hour Ministries with author’s permission
1. When have you suffered unjustly?
2. What kinds of feelings does that produce in you?
3. How do you turn to the Lord for help?