“Give back to her as she has given; pay her back double for what she has done. Mix her a double portion from her own cup. Give her as much torture and grief as the glory and luxury she gave herself. In her heart she boasts, “I sit as queen; I am not a widow, and I will never mourn.” Therefore in one day her plagues will overtake her: death, mourning and famine. She will be consumed by fire, for mighty is the Lord God who judges her.” (Reference: Revelation 18:6-8 )
First let’s identify the focus of this verse; Babylon – the generic enemy of the people who lived during the time of Jesus, and the decades following. Also included in this generic group is Rome, more precisely the rulers in Rome that persecuted and oppressed the early Christians. It is no wonder than that the historic Anabaptist read into this passage indictments against their generic enemy, the state church at the time of the Reformation. Walter of Stoelwijk wrote about this enemy of his fellow believers saying, “Let all apostate Christians, who return to the Roman Babylon, from which they had separated, and make friendship with the whore whom they had hated bear this in mind. What shall we say to such unstable persons? How can men who once knew the truth be so blinded as to depart from Christ Jesus their only Saviour, and return to the infamous accursed whore of Babylon, the mother of all unrighteousness, and queen of all the children of unbelief and cursing, who has become their comfort and protection, yea, their idol . . . . Woe unto such perverse men, who depart from righteousness, from light to darkness, from life to death, and go from Jesus Christ to antichrist, seeking consolation from Satan, and not in God. Woe unto such fearful ones, who fear those who can kill only the body, more than God, the Almighty Lord, who can cast both body and soul into eternal damnation. Rev. 21:8; Matt. 10:28; Luke 12:4, 5. Woe unto such, that they were ever born unless they remarkably amend their ways and go out of Babylon; for the Scripture says not in vain: “Go ye out of the midst of Babylon, my people, and touch not the unclean thing, that ye be not partakers of her plagues, or sins.” Isa. 52:11; 2 Cor. 6:17; Rev. 18:4.”
I cannot, however, join in with the writer of Revelation and the historic Anabaptist in their reviling of such enemies because those enemies no longer exist! Each generation, each country, each faith group has their own enemies, those that they would cast in the role of (as several commentators label it) mystical Babylon. We all set up people, places, things that are our enemies and we relegate them to the deepest crevices of hell and vow that God will keep them there in eternal punishment! But I, beloved, do not want to be a part of such hatred and revulsion. Sure there are people, places, and things that I do not like and try to avoid. And there are people, places, and things that are contrary to my Christian beliefs. But such spewing hatred? I do not want to take a part of it.
There is a tremendous amount of hurt and anger in the world. I know, because I have been hurt . . . several times. And I will also admit I have been tempted to go down that road of . . . just venom that seethes! And have taken one or two steps towards such a destination. But it didn’t change anything; didn’t even make me really feel any better. But I could feel it corroding my spirit and soul, and determined then and there not to ever let myself feel that kind of wrath toward anyone!
So what should we do with those poisonous feelings? Vent them? Harbor them? Stuff them under a couch cushion and hope no one notices them? No, none of those beloved. We should give them over to where they belong – to God. If anyone going to carry out this plan of revenge and vengeance, let it be God. And let us not rejoice in it, but mourn that there has to be such suffering in the world.
We are fallen world, beloved, and it does not help us or the world to be glad when someone has vengeance set on them. Let us hope and pray for better outcomes for ourselves, the rest of humanity, and creation. Selah!
P.S. Beloved, I am always interested to see how my views have changed from five years ago, when last Reading the Anabaptist Bible was the year long focus. And I am continually surprised how much my views have NOT changed. I am inserting a link to what I wrote five years ago, “Double Portions of Vengeance” I invite you to read it also.