Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord – Romans 12:19
Meaning of Romans 12:19
The meaning of the verse, “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord” is that he or she must not try to take revenge from anyone, but leave it to God to watch them bear the consequences. Paul doesn’t oppose wrath and revenge but advises against humans taking it into their hands. He believes that vengeance is best left in God’s hand than a human. Paul might also be implying that a person’s revenge might dilute God’s opportunity to do the same. The Bible consists of instances where God took revenge on behalf of his children in a way greater than anyone could imagine or anticipate.
Interpretations of Romans 12:19
The verse of Romans 12:19 is not a popular verse but is preached to teach Christian model behavior once in a while. This verse is also interpreted in different ways. Here are a few examples.
Interpretation #1 A Christian must be forgiving in all situations.
The interpretation of the verse, “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves” is that a Christian is supposed always to have a forgiving attitude. The reader believes that Apostle Paul is asking Christians not to possess an “eye for an eye” attitude but learn to forgive and forget. The ideology of forgiveness is taught and preached in every church as it is known to be the most important quality a Christian can possess. Jesus Christ is always referred to as being the prime example of the same. The Bible says that he called out from the cross he was crucified on and asked God to forgive everyone. This might make one believe that forgiveness is crucial and non-negotiable in a believer’s life.
Interpretation #2 God will punish Christians’ enemies
The reader believes that the meaning of the verse, “for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord” is that God tends to punish anyone who brings even a small amount of hurt or pain to a Christian’s life. The reader understands that God is very protective of His children. It is probable that a person makes many enemies in their lifetime due to some factor or the other. For instance, if a Christian comes under harm or falls into a conflict, God intervenes and punishes the oppressor. Thus, reader strongly believes that God is intolerant towards a Christian’s enemies.
Interpretation #3 God is always vengeful
The interpretation of the verse, “for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord” is that God is a vengeful God. The reader understands that God doesn’t want His believers to take revenge because He wants to control them and doesn’t trust them to have a rational mind. God is an almighty creator of the universe and has the power to offer justice as well as take revenge. Hence, God is vengeful and dislikes humans having freedom but gets angry when one of his believers suffers harm. He then proceeds to bring downfall upon the enemy.
Interpretation #4 Taking revenge will send a person to prison
In this interpretation, the reader believes that Apostle Paul is warning Christians against taking risks and avenging their anger as it could send him or her away from God. Hence, Paul asks the readers to let go of their anger and let God do the necessary. The Bible teaches the readers or believers to be forgiving and patient towards others. The churches also encourage the congregation to practice ‘letting go’ so the followers of Jesus will not do anything aggressive in anger. A person in anger is likely to commit crimes and end up in prison.
Interpretation #5 God will get justice for his children
The final interpretation of the verse, “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord” is that a Christian should abandon the ideas of avenging their enemies and instead leave it to God to do it. Apostle Paul understands that when one is hurt, the first course of reflexive action is vengeance. However, he asks Christians to lay the anger to rest and focus on letting God handle the enemies/situation. He does not say that the enemies should be forgiven but rather wants them to face the wrath of God and justice through Him and the law or fate. Thus hoping to save the souls of His children.
Historical background of Romans 12:19
Romans was written by Paul the Apostle while he was in Corinth in the mid-50s AD, with the help of his secretary, Tertius. It is also the longest and final written epistle of the Apostle Paul. It is believed that Paul did not have any relationship with the Roman community prior to the drafting of this letter. In the twelfth chapter of Romans, Paul primarily focuses on sanctification and how a Christian should carry oneself and the mindset they should own. The nineteenth verse particularly focuses on Paul asking Christians to forego the idea of vengeance and asking them to leave it to God to handle it.
Literary Devices of Romans 12:19
Romans 12:19 is an instruction to the Christians and consists of some notable literary devices. Here are some examples.
Consonance – The verse has good use of consonant sounds in repetition. For example, the sound of /l/, the sound of /n/, the sound of /p/, and the sound of /r/ in ‘Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath‘. Also, the sound of /n/, the sound of /t/, and the sound of /s/ in ‘for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay‘.
Assonance – The verse has good use of vowels sound in repetition. For example, the sound of /i/ in ‘for it is written‘.
Theme – The major theme in verse Romans 12:19 are forgiveness, God’s protection, and patience.
Hyperbole – Romans 12:19 exaggerates God’s protection and possessiveness as if God will punish anyone for the smallest mistakes against His children. Thus, making a good example of hyperbole.
Parallelism – The phrase ‘Vengeance is mine’ is parallel to Deuteronomy 32:35 from The Old Testament.