Last night, my wife and I decided to watch the film adaptation of Alexandre Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo starring Jim Caviezel (the guy who played Jesus in the Passion of the Christ) and Guy Pearce (from the movie Memento by Christopher Nolan). If you are not familiar with the story or have never seen the movie, it is a classic tale of betrayal and revenge.
After being framed for treason by his best friend (Guy Pearce), a sailor named Edmond Dantes (Jim Caviezel), spends over a decade in “a grim island fortress off Marseilles.” It is there that Edmond meets another prisoner, an Italian priest named Abbe Faria, who teaches him how to read, write, and fight, in exchange for helping him dig an escape tunnel over the course of 8 years. During this time, Edmond begins to piece together the suspicious details surrounding his imprisonment. It is in his prison cell that he begins plotting his revenge!
I won’t give any more of the plot away in case you want to watch the movie for yourself. But I will touch on betrayal and revenge from a Christian perspective.
I have never had a friend accuse me of treason or murder, but I am no stranger to betrayal. I have had people very close to me say and do things that were extremely hurtful; I think most people have gone through this at least once in their lives. When we are betrayed, we get angry. And when we get angry, we usually make the wrong decisions. While Edmond is in prison planning his revenge, his friend cautions him “not to become guilty of the crime for which you have been imprisoned.” In other words, we may be innocent of the false allegations made about us, but that can change quickly if we do not handle betrayal in a Christ-like manner.
When Jesus was betrayed by Judas, his own disciple, he did not pick up his sword to take revenge against him. If it had been anyone other than Jesus, I believe they would have struck Judas down in a heartbeat. In fact, Peter actually took a swing at one of the arresting guards and cut off his ear. What did Jesus do? Did he join in with Peter on the fight? No, he stopped the fight, then healed the ear. How does the way we handle betrayal compare to the way Jesus did? Do we really believe all things work together for the good of those who love the Lord and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28)? Jesus certainly did. He submitted completely to the will of His Father.
Revenge always looks good on paper. “Someone did ‘fill-in-the-blank’ to me, so I am justified in getting back at them. It’s only fair.” But friends, revenge is a drink that will never quench your thirst. I know from personal experience that it does not make you feel better or help you to move on with your life. If you give yourself to revenge, you will never stop. You will become an insatiable monster. You’ll say all you want is justice, but that isn’t true. You want to hurt the one who hurt you.
People will sometimes say, “Hey, just let it go.” This isn’t bad advice, per se, but I think there is even better advice. When someone betrays you, give it to God. Give it to the only righteous and just avenger in the universe. Vengeance isn’t our job. It’s His (Deuteronomy 32:35). Only He can help us to truly “let it go” through forgiveness. When forgiveness floods our hearts it can wash away years of built up anger and resentment. It brings healing and freedom that revenge promises, but cannot deliver. Christians don’t get even; we turn the other cheek (Matthew 5:38-40). We don’t “play God;” we imitate Him (Ephesians 5:1).
Here is a passage to meditate upon if you are struggling with betrayal and are contemplating revenge:
Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Try to do what is honorable in everyone’s eyes. If possible, on your part, live at peace with everyone. Friends, do not avenge yourselves; instead, leave room for His wrath. For it is written: Vengeance belongs to Me; I will repay, says the Lord. But
If your enemy is hungry, feed him.
If he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
For in so doing
you will be heaping fiery coals on his head.
Do not be conquered by evil, but conquer evil with good.
Romans 12:17-21 (HCSB)