Just how many movies about revenge has Liam Neesen made now?
I’m glad you asked me! Let’s see…
First, there was Taken (2008), which is described as “A retired CIA agent travels across Europe and relies on his old skills to save his estranged daughter, who has been kidnapped while on a trip to Paris.”
And when you add Taken 2 (2012) and Taken 3 (2014), you’re already on quite the revenge killing spree. But wait, that’s not all the Liam Neeson films that fall into the “revenge porn” sub-genre.
There’s also Unknown (2011) – “A man awakens from a coma, only to discover that someone has taken on his identity and that no one, (not even his wife), believes him.”
And you might have missed Run All Night (2015) – “Mobster and hit man’s…longtime best friend wants him to pay for the death of his own son.”
Finally, the most recent entry in this over-stuffed category, Cold Pursuit (2019) – “A grieving snowplow driver seeks out revenge against the drug dealers who killed his son.”
Seems people will pay good money, over and over, to see Liam Neeson as their on-screen proxy dispatching betrayers with extreme prejudice. And when even snowplow drivers are getting in on the action, you know that revenge is everyone’s favorite sport.
But you don’t have to search the big screen to see the power of revenge.
An old boyfriend plasters the smile of his new girlfriend on Instagram, hoping so desperately the girl who dumped him will see it.
The career woman files her harassment lawsuit, hoping the Good Old Boys Club at her office will finally get what they deserve.
Vengeance is one of the most primal of emotional responses. It pops up quicker than our knee reflexes when the doctor hits them with that little mallet.
Pastors are not immune, either. It’s usually church members who throw us under the bus…and then back over us a few times just to make sure they got our attention. So when I’m feeling hurt and betrayed, I appreciate the raw. unrestrained words of David in the Psalms:
If an enemy were insulting me, I could endure it; if a foe were rising against me, I could hide.
But it is you, a man like myself, my companion, my close friend, with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship at the house of God, as we walked about among the worshipers. – Psalm 55:12-14
After the words he wrote above, he asks for the Lord to bring vengeance to him and destroy his enemy. The idea of physical harm or death does not appear to be off the table. Here’s where the dust really starts flying…
Let death seize them; let them go down alive into hell… (vs. 15)
Um…Wow! To our ears, that sounds extreme, hateful, and even barbaric. We look on with New Testament eyes and perhaps start thinking we’re a bit better than the king. But in truth, he’s only being honest about what each of us has felt when someone takes our trust, weaponizes it, and then turns it against us.
Try as we might to camouflage or deny it—vengeance is what our souls want. Put bluntly, we want God to do to them what they did to us.
And then, we feel guilty. We repent of those reflex feelings and tell God we’d never wish anything bad on our enemies. But lying in wait behind our eyes, a part of us does indeed desire it. Our flesh is tied down, hissing in the darkness like a caged, rabid animal.
We want to think we’re too spiritually mature to go all “Old Testament” on someone. But we’re not. Perhaps only fear of repercussions keeps the snarling animal within us at bay. Probably the one thing that holds back our hand from striking is knowing that something has held back God’s hand from striking us so many times before. We know that there were those times in the past, we played the part of betrayer.
We were in a tight spot, and we figured the other guy could take the fall easier than we could. He’d survive and we’d escape to fight another day. So we play David and told the troops to retreat once Uriah reaches the front lines. We sacrificed the innocent to save our own mangy neck or to cover our own sin.
So we are no better than David. In fact, we’re hypocrites and worse than him. At least David was too honest to cover up his sordid, rotting humanity in those scary psalms.
We should certainly be careful using David’s psalms as our template for how we ask God to work. In those psalms, God is letting David vent his true feelings. But he is not saying that’s how he’ll actually work on David’s behalf. David was a man of war, and sometimes he thought his sword was the answer to all his problems.
If God killed every betrayer, our churches would be populated only by tumbleweeds blowing between the pews.
I’ve found every time I rear back to take a swing at the one who has harmed me, Jesus catches my hand. That’s when I feel the nail scars. They serve to remind me he knows what it feels like to be the scapegoat for someone else. So my pain is not lost on him.
Those scars are even more poignant when I remember who put them there. They are memorials of my own betrayal. It was my sin that nailed him to the cross. It was me he was saving there. And yet he hasn’t abandoned me the way I’ve abandoned my betrayers.
On that cross, Jesus said something so counter-intuitive—I still can’t comprehend it. Out of the blood and pain, he asks the Father that his betrayers be forgiven.
Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34).
If you’re feeling betrayed today and seeking vengeance, take a moment and watch the blood flowing down that cross. I guarantee it’ll drain most of the anger out of your pay-back fantasies.
Seeing that, even Liam Neeson’s characters might just give up on revenge. It takes all the fun out of it when you realize you’re the one who needs to be rescued.
Photo credit: 20th Century Fox