Revenge is a theme that looms large in novels, plays and films. From the playground to the workplace it plays a major role in life – not least in the Persian-speaking world. Our Neighbourhood, a SAT-7 PARS series known for addressing everyday issues in Iran and beyond, tackled the topic in a recent episode.
Pastor Reza Sotudeh, the featured guest on the episode, summarised revenge in this way: “Revenge results from a powerful feeling that gives rise to anger and hate as a response to perceived wrongs. And so, a person may decide to take action to right the wrong they have suffered.”
But there is a difference between punishment and revenge. The motivation behind punishment should normally be positive, aiming for the subject’s rehabilitation. Whereas revenge at its core is destructive and dangerous. It is moved by anger and hate rather than a desire to bring correction and healing.
Revenge is like a flood that wreaks havoc on anything in its path.”
Pastor Sotudeh observed that the vengeful act is often disproportionate to the original wrong: “For example, someone proposes marriage and is rejected. Then he makes threats, even threats to kill! Sometimes we hear stories of acid attacks resulting from this kind of rejection. Revenge is like a flood that wreaks havoc on anything in its path.”
WHO MAY AVENGE?
Pointing the way to the love of God seen in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, Sotudeh reminded viewers that if anyone has the right to revenge, it is He who has been most wronged ever since creation. God announces, “Revenge is mine” (Deut 32.35; Rom 12:19), yet He offers forgiveness to all who repent and accept Him.
Revenge may offer kudos and comfort to vengeful heroes in Hollywood blockbusters, but in real life the person taking revenge is usually haunted by regret and dissatisfaction. It becomes like an open wound that is always picked at and never heals.
What should be the response of those who in their powerlessness experience betrayal or injustice?
A GODLY PERSPECTIVE
Our Neighbourhood examined God’s response to betrayal across the Bible. Following Cain’s murder of Abel, God’s command protected Cain from revenge, demonstrating at the very beginning of creation itself that God is motivated by love.
Addressing the principle of “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth”, Jesus said: “You have heard that it was said, ‘an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also…” (Matt 5:38-39)
And in Romans 12:20 Paul speaks in the same vein: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him. If he is thirsty, give him something to drink…”
STRENGTH IN WEAKNESS
Pastor Sotudeh explained, “This takes away the right to revenge from us. Our responsibility is instead to be merciful and forgiving.
“This view of revenge and forgiveness challenges cultures that set narrow boundaries for forgiveness.
“The common view is that people who forgive are weak, yet God the Creator is one whose forgiveness and power are simultaneously boundless. Forgiveness demonstrates power, and the presence of God in the believer is the source of the power to forgive.
“Revenge degrades, but Jesus desires to transform us and raise us to be in essence a reflection of His own personality which is defined by grace and forgiveness.”
Many viewers were moved by the message of the programme and contributed with their own messages. Rashin said, “Exactly: strong people will not take revenge.”
Aatefeh’s long message from Iran focused on hope: “Just as light defeats the darkness so will goodness conquer evil.”
Pastor Reza Sotudeh leads a Persian-speaking congregation in Birmingham and is actively involved in providing teaching for other congregations in the UK and Europe.
Learn more about SAT-7’s Persian-language channel and how Persian speakers can watch the channel in the UK.