“When He opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held. And they cried with a loud voice, saying, ‘How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?’ Then a white robe was given to each of them; and it was said to them that they should rest a little while longer, until both the number of their fellow servants and their brethren, who would be killed as they were, was completed.” (Revelation 6:9-11 NKJV)
As Jesus began the process of opening the seals on the scrolls, disaster ensued on the earth. War, famine, and destruction accompanied the four horsemen. That’s why the fifth seal is a puzzle to me. The fifth seal reveals those who had died because of their faith in Christ. In some cases, their deaths were accompanied with unbearable pain. As these martyrs spoke, after all the previous seals of destruction were unleashed, they cried out for vengeance. They asked God how long it would take until they were avenged. Maybe they didn’t know about the four horsemen. Maybe they thought their persecutors were escaping punishment. Whatever the situation, they cried out for God exact vengeance on those who lived on the earth. Then we see the message of Jesus in full display. Wait. Why were they to wait? I believe that God continued to wait, even allowing others to be killed in persecution, so that some might come to acknowledge Jesus as their Lord and Savior. While these martyrs sought vengeance, perhaps with some justification, Jesus continued to work for reconciliation.
The natural human reaction when we’re wronged is to seek vengeance. We want to get back at the other guy – after all, what right did they have to <insert reason for grievance here>. The courts are backlogged with civil and criminal cases where people are out to get vengeance for wrongs done to them through the legal system. While I understand that people who commit crimes deserve punishment, as followers of Christ, we’re called to seek reconciliation even when we’ve been aggrieved. We saw an amazing example of that last week when Brandt Jean embraced the cop who killed his brother and offered forgiveness after her conviction. That shames me as I think of how many times I wanted God to “get someone” who did something minor to me. If we’re ministers of reconciliation, we must, even when our heart cries for vengeance, seek to reconcile those who’ve hurt us with ourselves and with God.
Oh Lord, I cry out with my brothers and sisters who’ve died for their faith and wonder when You’ll exact vengeance, but I’m reminded that You love those who deserve vengeance too. You redeemed Saul of Tarsus and made him a warrior of the faith. So, I pray mostly for reconciliation today. I pray that those whom I would seek Your vengeance against and ask that You reconcile them to Yourself. And Lord, if necessary, use me as an instrument of that reconciliation.