Truth for Today

No Such Thing as Payback

Repay no one evil for evil.
~ Romans 12:17

Some people believe the Old Testament law of “eye for eye, tooth for tooth” (Exod. 21:24) permits personal revenge. But that’s not what it refers to. It was actually saying that the severity of legal punishment should not exceed the severity of an offense. In other words, if someone put out another person’s eye, he could not be penalized by anything involving more than the forfeiture of his own eye. 

The authority to avenge civil and criminal injustices belongs by divine mandate only to governments. God forbids us from exacting personal vengeance. The apostle Peter summarized the principle this way: “Finally, all of you be of one mind . . . not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you May inherit a blessing” (1 Pet. 3:8–9).

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