Bible refs: Mark 5 vv 38-42; Leviticus 19 vv 16-18
Location of clip: 27 secs to 2 mins and 40 secs
Porter is not to be trifled with. He’s lean and mean and downright dirty. However, one day his wife and best friend stitch him up and bump him off to get their hands on a large sum of money. Unfortunately for them they don’t bump hard enough. Porter survives and convalesces and then comes looking for them. He is intent on getting even, not only with them, but with anyone else who crosses his path. So as Porter starts t settle the score he finds he has to take on a large crime syndicate and a bunch of crooked cops. The plot twists and turns and the nest of vipers grows ever larger. But come hell or high water (and there’s certainly plenty of that) Porter will get what he’s come for. He’ll get his payback.
The is the opening scene and credit sequence to the story. Porter lies on a table in a filthy kitchen while a whiskey soaked quack removes the bullets from his back. We hear Porter’s voice telling us about himself. He has discovered how much he is worth – $70,000. His wife and an accomplice tried to kill him for that amount of money. But now he wants it back. Now he will get even with them. In a gravelly payback kind of voice, he says:
“They say time heals all wounds, and you’d think after five months of lying on my back I would have given up any idea of getting even. Just be a nice guy. Call it a day. Nice guys are fine – you gotta have someone to take advantage of. But they always finish last.”
In most places where revenge occurs in the Bible it’s instigated by people and does not appear to be sanctioned by God. Lamech, Samson, Saul, Joab, and Absolam all go looking for payback at one time or another, and no doubt they justified it in their heads as being Godly retribution. But that was just springing from their own hunger for vengeance.
In fact the Lord often protects people from vengeful enemies.
God explicitly outlaws revenge in Leviticus 19, and when David’s men kill Saul’s son and claim this is God’s revenge David is outraged by the idea and promptly has them killed and mutilated.
However, in Nahum’s book God is described as being slow to get angry – whilst also being a powerful God who takes revenge on those who oppose him. God actually instructs Moses to take vengeance on the Midianites for leading the people away from knowing him. But it’s worth noting that it’s not Moses who is burning to get his own back – he is just obeying an instruction. This is an important difference as presumably he is not consumed by his own anger or desire for payback.
When the people of Philistia take revenge on the people of Judah, Ezekiel speaks out and prophesies that God will get even with them, this harks back to the old quote: “ ‘Revenge is mine,’ says the Lord”. In Hebrews 12 v 19 the writer encourages us to hold back, for vengeance belongs to God. It appears that God has sole ownership of this commodity – when people engage in it for their own ends, it brings nothing but trouble. Some people dedicate their lives to getting even – but it seems to be a hollow prize.
Revenge is a sweet idea – I often fantasise in my head about getting even. Publicly denouncing other people’s crimes and shortcomings. Making my friends and enemies pay for the times they’ve hurt me. Thank goodness my head isn’t live-linked to a cinema screen. It certainly wouldn’t be 12A rated. Scenes of retributive carnage often play in my mind. Thank goodness the anger burns out before I get a chance to do something about it. And I’m glad. Experience has shown me that revenge may look good, but it tastes bitter. And it leads nowhere. Somehow we have to find a way of forgiving and moving on, without appearing to be a well-scuffed doormat. Maybe this is why Jesus encouraged us to pray for our enemies, sometimes praying for someone can soften our hearts and wills towards them. It is perhaps a practical move towards seeing them in differently.
1. Why is revenge so much more attractive than forgiveness?
2. Jesus told us to forgive 70×7 times – in other words – relentlessly. Was he asking too much in a world where people always take advantage of us?
3. How do we forgive without appearing to be a doormat?
4. Are there people you need to forgive?
5. Did the clip make you think about anything else?