A couple weeks ago I was attempting to lead a spirituality discussion group in a residential substance abuse treatment program for males between the ages of 14-18, when, out of the blue, they asked the following question. (I must add that much of what helps them pass the time while locked up involves watching movies or playing games which feature some anti-hero exacting revenge on the obviously really bad guys, the true villains.) So, toward the end of an otherwise uneventful group session, here's what they wanted to know:
What would you do if a very evil person killed your family right before your eyes? You saw it, couldn't help them; you were unable to deliver them. Then it happened that this person was arrested, tried but ultimately declared not guilty! And yet you know the truth. Now you watch helplessly as this person leaves the courtroom. Once again you feel powerless as this person passes you, staring at you, his sick grin taunting you, the same smirk he flaunted on the day he killed your hope. But you know he is guilty! Later, you find yourself in a position to take his life outright. He is now at your mercy and you could end his life in an instant. What would you do? Would you murder him? Take revenge for what he did, for what the system failed to get right?
I responded to their question by asking my own questions, which slowed things down but ultimately left them unsatisfied. One kid finally said, "You always answer our questions with, 'Well, that's the question, isn't it?!'" And he was right. So I paused and looked at each of these ten young men and then I answered them directly, to the point. "No. No, I wouldn't take his life because it's not worth it. His life is not worth the price of mine. The universe has its own timetable."
For the very first time in almost four years, they didn't ask another question.
Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do.
“I’ll do the judging,” says God. “I’ll take care of it.” ~Romans 12:19