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Is it right to pray for revenge?

Psalm 58:6–8

Several psalms call upon God to take revenge on the enemy. Yet Jesus taught that we should love our enemies (see Mt 5:44). And the apostle Paul wrote, “Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath” (Ro 12:19). How, then, do we interpret psalms that call a curse on the enemy?

Several points help put this question into perspective:

(1) Cursing the wicked was, for Old Testament saints, more a plea for God’s justice than a cry for personal revenge. Their reasoning may have been this: Sinners show contempt for God’s honor when they cause the innocent to suffer. The writers of the psalms could not tolerate the idea of God standing by, permitting these wrongs to go unpunished. They begged for his justice and his wrath to be carried out.

(2) Though David asked God to show no mercy to the wicked (see Ps 59:5, for example), he himself showed mercy several times when he could have taken revenge on the guilty: to Saul (see 1Sa 24:8–13; 26:8–11), to Shimei (see 2Sa 16:5–13) and to Absalom (see 2Sa 18:5). In those cases, David left the judgment of sinners in the hands of God, the “Judge of the earth” (Ps 94:2).

(3) The writers of the psalms, though they had the benefit of Old Testament law, had not experienced the new dimensions that were given through Christ. It’s hardly fair to expect Old Testament people to act “Christian” before Jesus Christ even came.

No, we should not pray for revenge. Like the psalmists, we must trust God to right the wrongs of this world. And with Christ’s help, we can love and pray for those who mistreat us.

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