Vengeance – it’s what we want when we’ve been wronged. It’s what we want when we’re angry or mad. It’s often what we think is the same as justice.
And yet God says “Vengeance is mine” (Deuteronomy 32:35). Lets we think this is only mentioned once – it is also mentioned in Leviticus 19:18 as a contrast with the well-known “Love your neighbor”. Additionally, in the New Testament it is referenced in Romans 12:19.
This is something we (and our culture) are very confused about.The majority of action movies portray vengeance and justice as the same thing. At least the old western movies made a distinction by calling it “vigilante justice”.
The truth; however, is that vengeance and justice are not the same at all. The truth is also that God often (dare we say always) shows mercy in judgment. Instead of Adam and Eve dying immediately, an animal died. Instead of Cain dying immediately for murdering his brother, he was cursed – something he seemed to view as potentially worse than death (Genesis 4).
The act of mercy, and more so forgiveness, comes exceedingly hard when emotions are high and something or someone we cherish is at stake – and this is precisely why God is so much better than we would ever be at doing his “job”.
In America our justice system is set up in such a way that a person is presumed innocent until proven otherwise. Thus, until there is a trial, confession or the like judgment is withheld – now to be fair, there is some sense of judgment in being held in a jail cell prior to conviction but let’s leave that aside for the moment.
So where am I going with all of this? Markieth Lloyd. Yes, the man accused of killing his pregnant ex-girlfriend and a police officer. Despicable actions. Justice must be served.
And yet as I watched the video footage of the capture of this man, of what appeared to be police officers kicking him while he was on the ground, of what seems to be broken bones in the face and maybe a permanently damaged eye, I am saddened and grieved.
While I will hope there will be additional evidence to clarify what happened (e.g. there is no sound on the helicopter video footage), it currently appears like he was the recipient of vengeance.
Not only is vengeance wrong Biblically, but in an era when law enforcement is so frequently accused of demonstrating prejudice in the carrying out of their duties, this is the exact opposite of what is needed.
When vengeance is exhibited by law enforcement officers it damages the reputation and respect of all law enforcement officers. People will be less likely to respect law enforcement and less likely to think they will receive a fair shake in the justice system if the people responsible for rounding them up are going to begin carrying out judgement before they’ve been tried or sentenced? We need law enforcement that, as part of the justice system, is truly just in the carrying out of their duties. It is the court’s responsibility to determine guilt and punishment.
Law enforcement officers should be respected and obeyed.
All people, made in the image of God, should be respected and treated justly.
I’m thankful God does not treat us as we deserve, nor in an emotional fit of rage.
Dear Lord, help us to not do the same either.
P.S. May the officers (Officer Clayton and Deputy Lewis) who lost their lives in this incident be remembered for their work in the community and their desire to serve us.