Leave Vengeance for God, By Cornelius Afebu Omonokhua
Cornelius Afebu Omonokhua
Self-preservation is a natural instinct in almost every living organism. Human beings naturally want to preserve their lives and defend themselves against any threat to their existence on earth. It is natural for human beings to avoid whatever could cause them pain and suffering. Whatever is a threat to life is a source of fear that calls for safety. In the process the body is energized with a release of adrenaline. Apart from an increased strength, the senses of hearing, smell, and sight are stimulated to prevent emotional trauma that could distort the mind. Even the single-celled bacteria avoid any environment that is not conducive for their existence. Consequently “self-preservation is essentially the process of an organism preventing itself from being harmed or killed and is considered a basic instinct in most organisms (www.merriam-webster.com. Retrieved 2017-12-01). With these analysis, it appears that our subject under review is not meant for human beings but for the sacred and transcendental beings.
Here we can begin to reflect more on the dictum that “to err is human and to forgive is divine.” I love the expression in the Holy Qur’an that God is the best of planners (Qur’an 8:30). This means that the Holy Qur’an makes provision for human beings to allow God plan for them. In the Holy Bible, God’s says, “vengeance is mine” (Deuteronomy 32:35). Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. ” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good (Romans 12:19-21). Vengeance belong to God alone because God is all knowing (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14; Psalm 34:15; Proverbs 5:21; Proverbs 15:3). Vengeance belong to God because he has more strength and energy to protect the oppressed and victims of injustice.
The relationship between Saul and David reveals that it is possible for a human being to leave vengeance for God notwithstanding the natural urge for self-defense and retaliation. David was at the service of King Saul and his kingdom even when he was aware that Saul had concluded plans to kill him. Saul attempted to kill David with a spear (1 Samuel19:10). When he did not succeed he sent messengers three times to kill David (1 Samuel 19:11; 1 Samuel 19:15; 1 Samuel 19:20; 1 Samuel 19:21). When these efforts fail, Saul went by himself for another attempt to kill David (1 Samuel 19:22). What was the offence of David? Political ambition! The young David killed Goliath and defeated the Philistines’ army (1 Samuel 17: 1-58). As the troops were returning home after David had killed the Philistine, the women came out of all the cities of Israel to meet King Saul with singing and dancing, with joyful songs, and with tambourines and other musical instruments. And as the women danced, they sang out, “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands.” And Saul was furious and resented this song. “They have ascribed tens of thousands to David,” he said, “but only thousands to me. What more can he have but the kingdom” (1 Samuel 18:6-8)?
Saul vowed to kill David who had no intention to do harm to him. In the course of pursuing David, Saul got tired and fell asleep. This was the condition David met Saul. What an opportunity to end the danger to his life once and for all. Abishai said to David, “Today God has delivered your enemy into your hands. Now let me pin him to the ground with one thrust of the spear; I won’t strike him twice.” But David said to Abishai, “Don’t kill him! Who can lay a hand on the Lord’s anointed and be guiltless? As surely as the Lord lives,” he said, “the Lord himself will strike him, or his time will come and he will die, or he will go into battle and perish. But the Lord forbid that I should lay a hand on the Lord’s anointed (1 Samuel 26: 8-11).
What David did is beyond human response to an enemy who is after the life of the innocent victim. David took the spear and water jug near Saul’s head, and they left. No one saw or knew about it, nor did anyone wake up. They were all sleeping, because the Lord had put them into a deep sleep. Then David crossed over to the other side and stood on top of the hill some distance away; there was a wide space between them. He called out to the army and to Abner son of Ner, “Are you not going to answer me, Abner?” Abner replied, “Who are you who calls to the king?” David said, “You are a man, are you not? And who is like you in Israel? Why didn’t you guard your lord the king? Someone came to destroy your lord the king. What you have done is not good. As surely as the Lord lives, you and your men must die, because you did not guard your master, the Lord’s anointed. Look around you. Where are the king’s spear and water jug that were near his head?” Saul recognized David’s voice and said, “Is that your voice, David my son?” David replied, “Yes it is, my lord the king.” And he added, “Why is my lord pursuing his servant? What have I done, and what wrong am I guilty of? Now let my lord the king listen to his servant’s words. If the Lord has incited you against me, then may he accept an offering. If, however, people have done it, may they be cursed before the Lord! They have driven me today from my share in the Lord’s inheritance and have said, ‘Go, serve other gods.’ Now do not let my blood fall to the ground far from the presence of the Lord. The king of Israel has come out to look for a flea as one hunts a partridge in the mountains.” Then Saul said, “I have sinned. Come back, David my son. Because you considered my life precious today, I will not try to harm you again. Surely I have acted like a fool and have been terribly wrong.” “Here is the king’s spear,” David answered. “Let one of your young men come over and get it. The Lord rewards everyone for their righteousness and faithfulness. The Lord delivered you into my hands today, but I would not lay a hand on the Lord’s anointed. As surely as I valued your life today, so may the Lord value my life and deliver me from all trouble.” Then Saul said to David, “May you be blessed, David my son; you will do great things and surely triumph” (1 Samuel 26: 12-25).
The way and manner Saul died through the arrow of the Philistine and finally falling on his own sword (1 Samuel 31:3-6) shows that the vengeance of God is better than human efforts to avenge the enemy. When Jesus insists that we love our enemies (Luke 6:27-38), the implication is that man should grow above mere human existence to the manifestation of the image and likeness of the divine transcendence with which God created the human person. The human person is not created to live on earth forever. The mission of every living person is to be happy on earth. Happiness is a virtue that is exhibited in a community hence peaceful co-existence is the soul of life. The vision of human life is to be happy with God on the last day. The eschatological consciousness of the human person is the solemn awareness of the existence of heaven and hell. Those who enabled happiness for others through personal contentment enjoy the eternal vision of the loving God in heaven while those who made life miserable for others spend eternity in hell. This is why human beings must strive to avoid greed and injustice that often cause lack of access to natural resources. The result of these are tensions and structural conflict that could end in violence and all forms of insecurity. If we allow God to inspire us to choose leaders who can promote dignity of life with the available natural and human resources, we may not even reach a situation that would call for self-defense. May the whole world experience the peace that would keep humanity happy forever!
Rev. Fr. Cornelius Omonokhua is the Executive Secretary of NIREC ([email protected])