Romans 12: 19 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.
There are “unwritten rules in sports”, especially when it comes to the area of revenge. In baseball, if a player has harmed or tried to harm a player (for instance a dangerous slide into 2nd), the unwritten rule is that the next time that player is up to bat the pitcher on the mound must hit the batter with a smoking fastball. In ice hockey, if a player takes a run at the goalie, they will receive a beat down by one of the other players at the appropriate time. I am sure you could tell me exactly what the “unwritten rules of revenge” are that exist in your sport of choice, because they exist in most sports (particularly team sports).
An article I recently read, The NHL’s revenge culture is a danger to the health of players, addresses some serious issues that arise when athletes take revenge into their own hands. For one, the doling out of punishment can escalate out of control and cause life altering injuries.
In 2004 in the NHL, Colorado Avalanche player Steve Moore injured Vancouver Canucks captain Markus Naslund. The referee did not call a penalty, and subsequently the league determined the hit was legal, but the Canucks were angry. The coach publicly criticized the no call, but worse, forward Brad May issued a “bounty” on Moore. The next time the two teams met, the Canucks wanted revenge. After Moore fought a Vancouver player in the 1st period, he figured the incident was over, but late in the 3rd period, 6’-3”, 250lbs enforcer Todd Bertuzzi was sent onto the ice. He stalked Moore, and when he refused to fight, Bertuzzi punched him in the back of the head, knocking him unconscious. Bertuzzi landed on him driving Moore’s face into the ice. Moore lay motionless for 10 minutes. The combination of the punch, his face hitting the ice and players falling on him resulted in three fractured neck vertebrae and ended his hockey career.[i]
You’ll find that you don’t need to train yourself to want to retaliate or take revenge. Wanting revenge is one of the most basic instincts, and its also sin. Paul wanted the church in Rome to understand that it may have been acceptable in the Roman culture, but as Christians they were to walk to the beat of a different drum.
17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 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. 20 On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12: 17-21)
These are tough instructions. When a soccer player came flying in with cleats at my chin, I certainly wasn’t thinking about offering him some Gatorade. Even worse, while coaching my son in soccer and watching him get viciously taken down and his arm fractured, simply because he was too fast, I hardly felt like offering the opposing coach after-game snacks. But if Jesus is truly living inside of us, then the old self must die. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! (2 Corinthians 5:17). Mere effort doesn’t work because the sinful “me” will always rise to the surface. It needs radical surgery which only comes through repentance. Are you struggling with desires for revenge? If an injustice has been done, let God deal with it. Your manipulation will only lead to sin and heartbreak.