This past week I asked this question on Facebook and received many answers. The most popular answer was justice (6). The second most popular was vengeance (4) which is associated with justice, but not quite the same. Two people said, “Wages.” Two people said “accounting for every wrong.” Two said, “Hatred.” Other answers included wrath, arrogance, entitlement, enmity, death, sin, bondage, punishment, judgment, unworthy, unkind, unpleasing, hopeless, indifferent, alone, and judgmentalism.
Grace is God’s favor bestowed upon His creation. The greatest expression of God’s grace comes through Jesus. John wrote of Jesus, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. . . . For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:14-17). Jesus shows us what grace really is in His life. Paul wrote, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9). God was gracious with us through Jesus even though we placed ourselves at enmity with Him through sin. Being gracious with others requires that we freely give of ourselves even in the face of their harsh treatment of us. Grace actually seeks to save others. Peter wrote about this in 1 Peter 2:18-23:
Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust. For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.
This leads me to conclude that the opposite of grace is the desire to get back at someone for what they have done to you, to “make them pay.” It is not just getting what someone deserves (which is justice), but the desire to make another person own your pain by inflicted pain upon them in some way. Some would call this vengeance. Romans 12:19-21 states:
Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
God can take vengeance because He knows how to repay someone’s sin, and He doesn’t do it out of spite our hatred, but out of righteousness. Our sense of vengeance, however, is not like God’s. When we take vengeance on others, we do it out of hatred, wrath, malice, judgmentalism, arrogance, enmity, spite, unkindness, and other sinful motives. In other words, our vengeance is not righteous. So, I conclude that the opposite of grace is unrighteous vengeance. How much better is it to be graceful with people instead of trying to get back at them. What a blessing it is to know that Christ brings us together and that His blood covers our sins in Him.