Gladiator, The Punisher, Taken, The Patriot, Collateral Damage and Max Payne are all films about a father’s revenge. There is something powerful about a revenge story.
In each of these stories the hero reacts as enemies harm his family, and he plots and exacts his vengeance on them. I don’t know about you, but when I watch these films I’m never satisfied until the protagonist succeeds in avenging the harm done to his own.
Stories of a father’s vengeance tap into strong feelings and desires I have as a father: desires to be a protector and the defender of my family. In real life I’m not much of a tough guy but in the hypothetical world of ‘what if…’ scenarios I’m a ruthless guardian of my family.
What if I was forced to defend my family? When I think about someone harming my son my mind immediately jumps to vengeance and vigilante justice. Although I have no experience or ability to fight I like to think I’d go all ‘Max Payne’ if someone hurt my son—the natural, protective love of a father seeking justice through vengeance.
The good, the bad and the…
In these desires we see both bad and good. The desire for justice is a good thing. We can see it most clearly when we are the ones that have been hurt. We want justice and we want it now. Longing for justice is good thing. God is just and calls his people to love justice too—but so often we take it even further. Our desire for justice turns into a desire for vengeance.
Vengeance is the longing to harm or inflict violent injury on someone as revenge. It is more than justice, more than the righting of wrongs. When we pursue vengeance we take on a job that isn’t ours. God says, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay’ (see Romans chapter 12, verse 17–21). God is the ultimate authority when it comes to justice and vengeance.
Consider how hard it would be to act without hatred when your family has been hurt; how impossible it would be to keep from thoughts of revenge. Consider the story of a father and a son in the Bible. In the story the son is captured by enemies and held as a captive. He is abused and tortured before being brutally killed with the approval of a mob of people. This is the story of Jesus, the Son of God.
A classic revenge story?
The story of the death of Jesus is striking as we consider him as the innocent Son of God. If there was ever a time for anger from God the Father surely this was the time, but instead of anger, Jesus’ death reveals God’s love. Through Jesus we can access true forgiveness.
As a father I’m astonished by the story of Jesus’ death. I know I take God’s forgiveness for granted. I can think ‘of course God loves me’ and ‘of course Jesus died for me’. I am prone to minimise the love and grace of God. Consider the great love of God who gives us forgiveness through the sacrifice of Jesus the Son of God.
This should be one of the classic vengeance stories—people kill the son and the father gets revenge. But rather than retribution the death of Jesus is a peace-making event. The brutal treatment of the Son of God deserves the right anger of God the Father and yet Jesus’ death and resurrection brings forgiveness and life.