“since it is a righteous thing with God to repay with tribulation those who trouble you” (2 Thessalonians 1:6).
In the course of one of their missionary journeys, Paul the Apostle and a fellow minister named Barnabas offered a cautionary message to the members of a local church community: “We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22).
In considering this verse, it’s important to remember that God and His people each assume different responsibilities in responding to the adversities He permits to enter our lives. The following passage from the Biblical book of Romans outlines each of these responsibilities, primarily from a human perspective…
“Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord. Therefore ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:17-21).
This directive to “Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone” (NLT) may sometimes require us to overlook insults, slights, or personal losses for Jesus’ sake. Although we may derive a measure of satisfaction from retaliating against someone who has injured us, that choice often does little or nothing to change the internal mindset of the person who is responsible for that injury. It might also lead to an ongoing cycle of retaliation where each side seeks to inflict greater forms of punishment upon the other. Those who travel that path are certain to end in a bad place.
That brings us to God’s responsibility as detailed here in 2 Thessalonians 1:6: “God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you” (NIV). One source summarizes that response with the following insight…
“The righteous action of God is seen in two ways—punishment for the persecutors and then rest for the persecuted. Williams says: God’s action in allowing His people to be persecuted, and in permitting the existence of their persecutors, had a double purpose—first, to test the fitness of His people for government (v. 5); and second, to manifest the fitness of their persecutors for judgment.” (1)
If we are armed with the knowledge that God will ultimately vindicate us, then we need not seek to avenge ourselves when others inflict injury upon us.
(1) William MacDonald, Believer’s Bible Commentary 2 Thessalonians 1:6, pg.2049