Jeremiah 20: 10-13 + Psalm 69 + 1 Romans 5: 12-15 + Matthew 10: 26-33
June 25, 2023 at Saint William and Saint Peter Churches in Naples, FL
“Be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna.” Have you ever wondered who that is? The easiest answer is, “God”. But the easiest answer is not the right answer, because God does not wish or will us to be destroyed or go to hell. The right answer is, “We can.” Others may be able to destroy our body, but we are the only ones who can destroy our souls and land in Hell. So, the question then is not “who” can destroy both soul and body, but “what” can do that.
Jesus will address what that is once more at the time of his arrest when he tells a disciple, “All who take the sword will perish by the sword.” When Jesus sends out the disciples, and they are not welcomed, he gives them a stern warning, and the message is simple and clear. If they abuse you, make fun of you, harm you, be careful how you respond. Physical harm is nothing compared to the power revenge has to eat away one’s soul and destroy one’s spiritual life. Revenge destroys one’s physical well-being, and it does serious psychological damage as well. Revenge will make your life hell.
Revenge is a dangerous motivation that drives people to do and say terrible things. It comes from deep within a person who has forgotten the love of God who called us and always suffers with us. To wish for or offer another person suffering only increases the suffering of this world, and there is already enough of that. Revenge from a sharp tongue or some physical act does nothing to change the world or make peace. It makes reconciliation all the more impossible. It makes the work, the mission, the suffering and death of Jesus Christ be for nothing.
We live in a world gone half mad by the evil and the power of revenge. Like an infection it destroys communities, beaks up friendships and marriages to say nothing of how often and easily it causes war. Our children are more at risk from this madness than from the latest virus. It has corrupted our sense of Justice to the point that when people seek “Justice” what they really mean is revenge.
To all of us tempted by this, Jesus reminds us that we are worth more than many sparrows. Now, I don’t know how much a sparrow is worth, but I get what he means. We do matter when it comes to God. We are worth the death of his only Son. We are worth the gracious gift of Jesus Christ. What God wants for us is goodness, peace, and joyful happiness living together in God’s love. Yet, that is impossible when there is anger and revenge within us. The best revenge is forgiveness, and that revenge will set us free. Without it, we are caught in a self- destructive cycle. None of us can get ahead while trying to get even, and the only people we should get even with are the people who have helped us.