Release the Right to Retribution

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By Robin Antoine

I remember one of my first encounters with racism. I was part of a youth group worship band who led worship services at the request of a handful of youth ministries. I remember travelling with the band to rural areas, often leaving evening services with a long drive home ahead of us.

One particular evening, we stopped at a crowded truck stop for something to eat. The restaurant area was crowded and while we were waiting for a table, a man seated a distance away from the entrance, started yelling the word ‘nigger’ in our direction. My eyes searched the faces seated in the restaurant where my friends and I stood - as I was the only one of African-descent, it was clear that the word was being directed at me.

The man spoke in an intimidating fashion. I was confused and embarrassed by the attack. One of my friends was getting pretty heated and began yelling back in defence. Since it appeared that no one in the restaurant was restraining the man, I told my friend that we were going to leave.

I was understandably frustrated after that event. I was mad at myself for not retaliating against the man for his racial slur, and I was mad that no one else intervened. In fact, I was so angry that it disturbed my thinking during the day and kept me up at night long after the incident. It robbed me of peace every time I thought of it.

In prayer, I presented my frustration to God and He led me to this verse “And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.” 1 John 2:2 (NASB) When I read those words, they illuminated something to me that I had not considered before.

Propitiation is defined as “the offering or sacrifice that turns away wrath.” Jesus showed me that He Himself was the sacrifice that turned away the wrath of God from me; and not only from me but also from the world, and “the world” included the man who offended me.

Jesus’ atoning sacrifice turned away God’s

wrath from me and my offender.  

Jesus encouraged me to release my right to retribution against my offender. Not to dismiss my hurt but to come out from under the authority of the offence. When I released the right to retribution I accepted the authority of Jesus’ redemptive work which released me from the burden of seeking justice against myself or others. His authority restored peace and dignity to my soul whereas the offence had taken both away.

In desiring retribution against my offender, I was assuming a responsibility for sin that I couldn’t carry, and trying to was nothing but a burden to me.

Dealing with the problem of sin is God’s

responsibility, not mine.

Sin is ultimately an offence to God, and God dealt with it already by offering His only begotten Son for the sins of humankind. It’s ultimately my responsibility to accept Jesus’ authority to forgive and not assume justice is mine.

A common retort to this statement of faith is “Are you not just letting the offender off the hook?” But this is not the case in light of the gospel. The cross of Christ does not devalue the price of sin. Sin had a great cost and it sent Jesus to the cross on behalf of myself and my offenders. Jesus even became the offender in my place and the place of those who hurt me. Paraphrasing 2 Corinthians. 5:20: Jesus became the ‘vindictive attempt to intimidate with a racial slur’, so that the man at the truck stop could become the righteousness of God if he so chooses to believe.

The gospel does not deny due process for acts of a criminal nature and does not qualify all humanity as saved without willfully calling on Jesus for salvation. However, it proclaims the opportunity to live the abundant life that Jesus purchased for the world, and for me, and not a life of bitterness.

When I was able to release the right to retribution it didn’t take away the painful memory of what happened to me but, if Jesus was willing to go to the cross for my righteousness,

How much more would He be willing to care for the ongoing restoration and healing of my soul.

When I was able to release the right to retribution, I was able to see that forgiveness was for me rather than for my offender. I pray that you also will accept Jesus’ finished work and move forward another day free of resentment and regret.