Tag Archives: vengeance

God’s People, part 59: Absolom

Read 2 Samuel 18

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“I wish I were the judge. Then everyone could bring their cases to me for judgment, and I would give them justice!” (2 Samuel‬ ‭15:4‬ ‭NLT‬‬)‬‬

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

img_0874Part 59: Absolom. Absolom comes to us in a way that makes him feel like the Punisher, who is one of my favorite of the Marvel heroes. In fact, the Punisher is not even a “hero”, but an antihero, a vigilante who is seeking punishment for those who murdered his family. Eventually that leads him to seek punishment for all he feels fall on the wrong side of the law. The Punisher seeks not vengeance, but justice through punishment.

The reason there was a Punsiher at all was because the failings of the justice system; his family was murdered by the mob and those who were “enforcing” the law turned a blind eye on him because they were in the pockets of the mafia. Thus, the grieving husband and father, Frank Castle, became the Punisher and took law “enforcement” into his own hand. Nothing will get in the way of him or his mission to punish the corrupt and criminals.

Absolom comes to us in much the same way. He’s outraged when he learns that his sister has been raped his and her half-brother, Amnon. He advised his sister to remain quiet, probably to protect her as we have all seen how “just” David’s court really was. I am sure he had the hope justice would take its course; however, when David remained silent and protected Amnon from any sort of punishment, Absolom becomes indignant. He, like Frank Castle, decided to take “law enforcement” into his own hands and, two years later, had Amnon murdered.

How can one not root for Absolom there, right? I mean his sister’s life was utterly destroyed and her own father did nothing to bring justice to her. I believe that this was the beginning of the split between Absolom and his father, the King. With that said, like many before and many after, Absolom also sought power and, though he was reconciled with his father, he began to plot against him with the hope of taking the throne from him.

Absolom, no doubt, believed he had the moral high ground to plot the coup, because of his father’s inability to judge justly; however, he did not seek God’s will in that regard, but was advancing his own cause and looking to set himself up as the ultimate judge of good versus evil. He proclaimed, “I wish I were the judge. Then everyone could bring their cases to me for judgment, and I would give them justice” (2 Samuel‬ ‭15:4‬ ‭NLT‬‬)!‬‬

Absolom saw himself as the arbiter of justice, and one could almost say that his words were rather chivalric; however, when one thinks of it, it falls short of true justice. All that would have happened would be that Absolom would have assumed the role of absolute ruler and would have fell short of truly being the kind of arbiter of true justice he thought he could be. Why? Because he was human and his understanding of justice was subjective. What’s more, absolute power corrupts absoltuely.

While he was able to successfully take the throne from his father, his success was extremely short-lived. In yet another tragic turn in the Davidic saga, Absolom ended up killed in battle by Joab, King David’s general. Thus, the one who saw himself the arbiter of justice, met his bloody end while hanging from his hair, caught in the branches of a tree. This, in essence, was yet another competitor for the throne that David had removed, and it solidfied Bathsheba’s push to secure the throne for her son Solomon.

In today’s time, we see people crying out for justice at all turns, and there is nothing wrong with that. With that said, we also see people acting out in all sorts of harmful, non-constructive and injust ways, all in the name of justice. This world has gone mad with the taste of blood, and it basks in blood baths in order to satiate it’s lustful desire for self-sought, vigilante “justice”. Many in the church have fallen into this deathtrap and, regrettably, many Christians sound more like Absolom than they do Jesus.

The challenge for us is to pull back and examine our hearts. Are we truly seeking justice? Are we seeking out God’s justice, the kind of justice that seeks repentance, reconciliation and redemption? Are we seeking justice and LOVING mercy? Or are we setting ourselves up as God…as the arbiters of our own brand of justice? If the latter, we are heading dangerously toward the demise of others and, in the end, our own demise as well. Let us be peacemakers, and let us be a people who stand for God’s justice for all people. Let us be guided by the true Arbiter of Justice and live that out in our lives.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” —Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

PRAYER

Lord, you are the Arbiter of Justice. Guide me in your justice so that I may seek to live justly, love mercy and walk humbly with you. Amen.

God’s People, part 57: Amnon

Read 2 Samuel 13:1-22

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“So at Absalom’s signal they murdered Amnon. Then the other sons of the king jumped on their mules and fled.” (2 Samuel 13:29 NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

Jan_Steen_001God’s People, part 57: Amnon. We have discussed, at length, the character and person of King David. Now it is time that we turn our attention to some of David’s more prominent children. I will not go into nearly as much depth with them as I have with others, nor will I be bringing up David’s sins (for the most part) as excuses for what his children did. No doubt, David’s sins played their part and I think that is clear enough that I do not need to reiterate that point over and over again. The first son we will will look at is Amnon.

We do not know too much about Amnon, but that he was the eldest son of David and Ahinoam (who was the woman David married after leaving his wife, Michal, behind while fleeing from King Saul). The reality is that David was polygamous and had many wives who, in turn, had many children. If you think sibling rivalries happen in the nuclear, monogamous family, you can only imagine how much more challenging the family dynamics are in polygamous families such as David’s.

All that Amnon is really known for is the terrible and horrifying sin he committed against his half-sister Tamar. Being David’s eldest son, Amnon was set to be the heir of his father’s throne. He had everything going for him and, I can imagine, felt a good sense of entilement given his status as heir to the throne.

Amnon, according to the Bible, was lusting after his half-sister Tamar. His desire for her grew into an obsession, and eventually he acted out on his lust. His friend helped him devise a plan to pretend he was ill and request that Tamar be the one to serve him food and care for him while he was sick. Once that request was granted, Amnon made his sexual advances toward her, which Tamar rebuffed.

Amnon would not be told no, as is the case with predators, and he raped his half-sister. Once he had his way with her, he sent her away from his room and refused to have any dealings with her, let alone any sort of relationship. This act of evil brought shame to the entire family and left Tamar completely scarred and broken. The Bible states that she never recovered from it and, seeing his sister completely destroyed in body and in spirit, Absalom sought out and enacted vengeance against Amnon. He waited two-years to complete the deed, but he eventually had Amnon put to death in order to avenge his sister.

This story is an extremely relevant one, as allegations of sexual misconduct, harassment, and rape are coming out of the woodwork against politicians, business people, clergy, church members, and Hollywood stars alike. Rape is nothing new; however, it is one of the most egregious and evil acts that one could ever commit against someone else. Rape has nothing to do with sex, nor does it have anything to do with hormones.

Rape has to do with power. Amnon did not rape Tamar because he had the hots for her (which would alone was sinful given that she was his half-sister); rather, he raped her because he could. Because he wanted her and she wasn’t going to tell him otherwise. With him, as with all rapists, it came down to power. He had it, she didn’t, and he was going to show her that she had no business telling him no.

What’s more, rape need not have to be committed sexually at all. We can rape people in more ways than just sexually. We can rape them emotionally, as well as spiritually. Rape is an act of dominance, of power, where we take what is not rightfully ours to take…because we can. Because we want it. Because we put ourselves over and above the other. How many of us have been guilty of this? How many of us have sought to exert our power over others in ways that are, in effect, raping them?

I know, I know. This is not a comfortable topic; however, with the amount of rape being had out there, it is a topic we ought to be reflecting on. We are called to love people, not manipulate them. We are called to honor and respect the divine dignity in all people, not rape them and rob them of it. Let us be a people who are challenged by what we see going on in the media and respond in a self-reflective and honest way, by repenting of our sinful and/or evil actions to our Lord Jesus Christ, and by allowing Christ to transform us into agents of the Kingdom of God and of reconciliation.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“How can we excuse David from the sin of Eli; who honoured his sons more than God?” – Rev. John Wesley

PRAYER
Lord, turn me away from my selfish need for power and control. Steer me away from being a manipulator so that I may not walk the pathway of Amnon, but that of Jesus Christ. Amen.

The Sermon, part 11: Fifth Antithesis

Read Matthew 5:38-42

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Anyone who injures another person must be dealt with according to the injury inflicted—a fracture for a fracture, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. Whatever anyone does to injure another person must be paid back in kind.” (Leviticus 24:19-20 NLT)

embracingtheevildoer-passionofthechristContext, context, context shall be the prescription of the day. Anyone who reads these devotions knows that I believe context is key in properly undestanding anything. So it is here, in Jesus’ fifth antithesis, which hyerbolizes the Hebrew Scriptures, mixing it with conventional wisdom in order to show the extreme reversal in the Kingdom of God.

To start off, there is absolutely no command in the Torah or anywhere in the Hebrew Scriptures for one to hate his/her enemy. With that said, there are plenty of instances where it is said that God hates evildoers and, using conventional wisdom, it would follow that if God hates evil doers then so should God’s children. Right? Well, according to Jesus while God is no fan of evildoing, God also does not believe that fighting evil with evil is the way to go.

In order to make a point of this, Jesus utilizes three examples, of which I hope some context will shed light on. In Jesus’ world, the right hand was the power hand. The left hand was the hand that one used to wipe themselves following doing “their business”, it was the hand that was seen as being the “unclean” hand for the obvious reasons. Thus, in Jesus’ culture, you didn’t shake with your left hand, you didn’t eat with your left hand and, for sure, you didn’t punch with your left hand. Well, you didn’t if you intended to knock someone out.

With that said, if one’s right cheek is being hit, than one must assume that, in this culture, that was a backhanded blow. More of an insult than something that would produce real injury. Jesus’ response is that if one insults you in a stinging way, that you should turn the other cheek and invite injury as well. This isn’t because Jesus loved getting injured or that he wanted to see his followers get injured, but that the Kingdom of God embraces the evildoer rather than retaliates.

The second example is a court case where the court decides that one must give the plaintiff his/her “shirt”, which was really a long nightshirt-like main garment, as settlement for a law suit. Jesus commands his followers to not only give the shirt, but also his/her cloak as well. Of course, If one did that they would be standing in the courtroom COMPLETELY NUDE! This isn’t meant to be taken literally, per se, but shows that God’s call for embracing the “evildoer” goes far beyond the requirements of the law (Exodus 22:25-26).

For the third example, Jesus utilizes was a political reality in his time period. It was legal for Roman soldiers to demand that a person show them the way to where they were going, as well as even carry some of their stuff for a specified distance. In fact, Simon of Cyrene was ordered to carry the cross of Jesus during his belabored march to calvary (Matthew 27:32). Jesus states, once again, that the Kingdom of God embraces the evildower not through retaliation, but by doing for the evildoer even more than what is required by the law.

This may all seem quite a bit confusing; however, it is important to understand that Jesus sees the Kingdom of God (or the Kingdom of Heaven, which is used synonomously) to be the complete antithesis to the Kingdom(s) of this world. To retaliate, to seek vengeance, to be violent is not God’s way but the world’s way. To put it more starkly, retalition/vegneance/violence IS SATAN’S DOMAIN and completely antithetical to the way of God. Yet, it must be said that EVIL is NOT absolute and God’s Kingdom will win against it.

How, you might ask? By embracing those who do evil against you, by loving them and, who knows, by potentially winning them over with God’s love. Even if that is not the end, God is defeating evil because, in those who refuse to participate in evil, LOVE IS CONQUERING. The idea is this, evil can only win in our lives if we choose to participate in it.

The question going forward is this, how seriously do we take Jesus on this? Do we, like Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Pfc. Desmond T. Doss and others, take Jesus seriously or do we have a line that we will NOT cross in follownig him? Will we embrace our enemies and those who do evil toward us, will we show them love in return for their hate, or will we fight evil with evil? This does not mean we should “cast our pearls before swine” (Matthew 7:6), as we will later see, nor should we go out of our way to be hurt by evildoers; however, if evil is done to you, what will be your response?

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“I couldn’t picture Christ with a rifle killing people.” – Pfc. Desmond T. Doss, U.S. Medal of Honor Winner, Conscientious objector.

PRAYER
Lord, help me to live as Christ taught me to live. Give me the strength to resist evil by embracing and loving the evildoer. Amen.

Where is the Justice?

Read Romans 12:15-21

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Indeed, the LORD will give justice to his people…” (Deuteronomy 32:36a, NLT)

ferguson-free-hugIn 1999, Mel Gibson starred in “Payback,” which was a 1950’s style crime-thriller directed by Brian Helgeland. I say “1950’s style” because it had Mel Gibson narrating his own story in the kind of way you’d expect to see on the classic police television show, “Dragnet”. The only twist is that Gibson’s character “Porter” is not a police officer, but a petty criminal who ends up being double crossed by his former partner-in-crime and his estranged wife. You see, Porter had cheated on his wife who later, to get back at her philandering husband, joined forces with his partner to plot against him. They shoot him (with the intent of killing him) and steal $70,000 from him…money that he, no doubt, stole from someone else.

To make a long story short, and to do so in a way that does not spoil the gritty fun (or perhaps experience is the better word) that the film is, Porter sets out to payback (hence the film’s name) those who did him wrong. He wages a bloody and intense war on his former partner, on his estranged wife and, eventually, on the crime syndicate that is protecting them. By the end of the film you can’t help but wonder what justice, if any, was done. With that said, it totally satisfies the inner need to see the “bad guy” get his in the end. Of course, porter is a “bad guy” who is getting even with other “bad guys.” This is played up in the film’s slogan, “Prepare to root for the bad guy.”

There are times in our life when we feel we have been wronged by our family, our friends, our neighbors, and other people. In those moments, we often cannot help but feel anger and the desire to get back at such people. Even when we are not seeking to get back at them ourselves, we wish that things would happen to them to “teach them a lesson.” We use terms like karma to express our wish for fate to slap them right where it counts and, if possible, allow us to be there to witness the moment it happens. I know that even while driving down the road, I have prayed that the person who cut me off would pass a police officer and get pulled over. I am sure I am not the only one who has prayed such a prayer.

We live in a world that sees REVENGE as justice. When things don’t go our way, when life seems to be unjust and no one seems to care that it is, we feel that we are then justified to take things into our own hands and exact our own brand of justice. In Ferguson, MO, for example, many protesters turned into rioters when they discovered that no charges were going to be brought against Officer Darren Wilson. As a result, a grieving family had to witness their son’s name being frivolously used to incite riots, store owners and community members alike stood helplessly as they watched their neighborhoods burn to the ground, innocent and peaceful protesters ended up having to endure tear gas and no doubt were fearing for their lives, and police officers had to put their lives on the line to try and keep the situation under control! Where’s the justice in all of that? The fact of the matter is that our own brand of “justice” is often not justice. Revenge is not JUSTICE, revenge is wrong and it solves nothing. All it does is create more victims.

If you want to see God’s justice, take a look at the picture for this devotion. It is of an officer who, in the midst of protests in Portland, Oregon over the Michael Brown case, hugged a twelve year-old boy who was crying because he saw the world around him falling a part. He was feeling the weight of the grand jury’s decision and was concerned about police brutality toward young black kids such as himself. In response to seeing the boy crying, the officer asked him what was wrong and, when the boy told him, he asked if he could have one of the “FREE HUGS” the boy’s protest sign was advertising.  JUSTICE is LOVE. JUSTICE is MERCY. Justice is KINDNESS. While the world around is often UNJUST, God is calling us to LIVE JUSTLY, to LOVE MERCY, and to WALK HUMBLY with God. That doesn’t mean that we sit back and let the innocent get trampled over; rather, that means that we peacefully and lovingly stand in solidarity with the oppressed without falling victim to the urge to GET BACK at the oppressor. LIVE JUSTLY and inspire others, through actions of peace and love, to join you in doing the same.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Social justice cannot be attained by violence. Violence kills what it intends to create.” – Pope John Paul II

PRAYER
Lord, help me to spread JUSTICE through peaceful actions of LOVE, MERCY, and COMPASSION. Amen.