No Third Ground (A Lesson Regarding Revenge)
Robert Wurtz II
Be angry, and do not sin”: do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil (Eph. 4:26–27 NKJV).
Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. Therefore “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good (Rom. 12:19–21 NKJV).
Vengeance is Mine, and recompense; Their foot shall slip in due time; For the day of their calamity is at hand, And the things to come hasten upon them (Deut. 32:35).
One of the reasons why sinful offenses are a great challenge, especially when the offenders demonstrate high-handedness (open rebellion) in place of repentance, is that we falsely assume that such people will never be dealt with. When one person sins against another it is a serious matter to God, but we often don’t view it that way and are tempted to take matters into our own hands. Yet we have this assurance from God that “Their foot shall slip in due time” (Deut. 32:35). Being italicized, the word “due” in this passage has been supplied by the translators.
Anger and resentment can fester when we wrongly assume that God doesn’t care that offenders are offending. Moreover, we are in error when we assume that God allows offenders to remain unrepentant forever. He does not. There are only two options in life, repent or perish. There is no third ground where privileged characters get a free pass. When people behave high-handedly and seem to be getting by with it… even after decades of doing it… just remember that there is no third ground. The only option for them or anyone else is repent or perish.
God’s desire and our desire is that these people repent and turn to God. That is the first desire; but if that does not happen, we must rest assured that “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. Nobody is “getting by” with anything; They are merely being afforded a space of time to repent. This is what we read to the churches in Revelation. The woman Jezebel was given a “space” to repent. We don’t know how long that was, but time and opportunity ran out and her judgment was pending (Rev. 2:21).
The English word “place” in Ephesians 4:27 and Romans 12:19 is translated from the Greek topos that is the root of our word topography. We use this word to describe natural and artificial features of an area on a map. So when the scripture says “neither give place (topos)” it is saying to not give space or a place for the Devil; because he will utilize it. When it says, “give place unto wrath” it is saying to make room for God’s wrath in your assessment of a situation so that you don’t make room for the devil.
When anger goes un-dealt-with a beachhead develops for the enemy. This is a landing zone of sorts for the Devil to invade your life. Like a scene from WWII, the enemy lands on this “place,” forces his way up the beach, and starts making war in your spiritual life. He lands his freighters onto the tarmac (if you will) and scores of weapons begin pouring in. Before you even know what has happened, the enemy has established a stronghold to try to bring you down. Your and my anger was the means that he used.
Carnality always leads to hostility. Keep in mind that much of God’s word deals with human relationships. Carnal people disregard God’s laws and ways. They don’t do by nature the things contained in the law. This can only mean that their behavior is non-loving. It may be lusting, but it is not loving: and there is a great difference.
When God’s laws are flouted, God and man are offended. Think about the church at Corinth. There was so much compromise and sin that it was cooling their love for one another. In the last days, because iniquity shall abound (lawlessness shall rule the day), the love of many shall wax cold. This was happening at Corinth in microcosm. Why do you think they were suing each other in court? That type of behavior is a million miles from the first several chapters of the book of Acts. Paul told them, For I fear lest, when I come, I shall not find you such as I wish, and that I shall be found by you such as you do not wish; lest there be contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, backbitings, whisperings, conceits, tumults.
Don’t let carnal people provoke you to react in a carnal way. Two wrongs don’t make a right. We are in danger of doing this when people behave so high-handedly that their behavior is off the charts and we are greatly provoked. Some people will test you to the final degree. Their tongues are like what James calls a fire from hell. Sometimes we deal with gross and unrepentant fornicators (men or women) like we read about in Jeremiah 5:8 that nobody can trust because they are like animals—constantly neighing after other people’s’ spouses. What are we to do with such people?
Jesus wanted us to know that we are going to be offended in this life. He stated, Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to stumble! Such things must come, but woe to the person through whom they come! (Matthew 18:7) Paul followed up this line when he wrote, Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is caused to stumble, and I don’t burn with indignation? (2 Cor. 11:29 WEB) Some might ask, did Paul get angry? You bet he did. Sometimes it’s a sin to not be angry. What kind of Christian could sit by and watch believers being offended and stumbled in the faith and not be angry?
Nevertheless, we have to give place unto God’s wrath so that He can deal with situations that provoke us to wrath. If we take matters into our own hands we can hinder what God is doing. This is not to say we don’t confront people at times or deal with their offense because we must. However, we cannot allow these situations, even when people have been stumbled (such as Paul referred to in 2 Cor. 11:29), to create an atmosphere of anger and wrath in us.
The solution! Trade your wrath for God’s wrath. Allow the knowledge of God’s wrath to replace yours so you can be at peace. I know it can be a great challenge at times, but don’t worry about it and don’t dwell on the offenses. That only makes you angrier. Give it to God in prayer. Your wrath cannot work the righteousness of God anyhow. As it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. It is not our job to avenge ourselves. God has it covered and when He repays it will be paid in full.