This post title comes from a film I watched the other night in a rare moment of ‘down time’ whilst being educated by a friend about aspects of botany and eating a rather fine Chinese takeaway…and for those to whom these things matter, yes – it was vegetarian.
It was yet another example of the genre of life/sport/drama/self-discovery/facing one’s demons/conquering one’s fears/ generally-inspirational kind of film – complete with gorgeous female love interest and what have you. But by secular standards, all that stuff was tame. Even what could have been a period for me to avert my eyes (in terms of sexual goings-on) was abruptly ended by the walk-in of the ‘younger sibling…’
All in all, not the sort of film that I would have been embarassed to be watching if a church member had dropped in on me out of the blue – you know what I mean. And yet, I ask myself – what did that film leave me with?
In the end, the multiple heroes of the story were able to deliver themselves. There was even a reference to Greek mythology- and the idea that by fighting one great fight, the protagonists would never have to fight again.
So, the idea that once can deliver oneself as long as one ”never backs down” is a pretty powerful notion today. Independence is king – or rather the notional concept of independence is king. So does the Bible endorse this idea?
I’ll speak for myself. I am as “Type-A” and ferociously driven as they come in more ways than most. If the sheer notion of never backing down was in and of itself enough to deliver oneself from the greatest battles of one’s life, than I’d have experienced that for myself. Just this morning I read Psalm 73 for my devotions – where the psalmist is reflecting on the prosperity of the wicked. It occurred to me that I may not be jealous or envious of the ‘prosperity’ of “the [truly] wicked, but I do have reason to reflect on how it is that people who have not worked anywhere near as hard as I have worked for certain things seem to have so much more than I do – inside and outside the church!
And if you raised your eyebrows at my use of square parentheses above (“truly”) – because you know what Jeremiah 17:9 has to say about the state of the human heart – I’m glad to know the Word is with you this morning. And that is why the Holy Spirit was able to speak to me and reveal that I may know better than to envy the wealth of a drug cartel leader or a financial services crook, but in being even slightly envious of ANYONE who has more than me, I am being envious of the ‘wicked’ – because we are ALL wicked!
Now, it is true that the psalmist may have also been thinking of those whose crimes are particularly heinous – and this is where we return to the values of the aforementioned film. In secular society – and in Hollywood, the end ALWAYS justifies the means. So if the bad guy is beaten (as in this film) or even killed (as in say, one of the ‘Dirty Harry’ films starring Clint Eastwood), then justice is served. And a side note – I have never watched any of the Dirty Harry films in their entirety. I had to read the synopsis on Wikipedia to learn what they were about. I know understand better what the essence of the stories are about – but again – man-made justice is not justice at all in the sight of God.
In the film I watched, the hero simply gave the ‘bad guy’ a solid beating, and then embraced his girlfriend (who had long before switched sides from the bad guy’s camp) and left. By the end of the film he even managed to give his mentor some advice which changed the mentor’s own direction – arguably for the better. All in all, we were talking about salvation made by man.
So, does God counsel us to never back down?
Isaiah 40:28-31 (King James Version)
28Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding.
29He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength.
30Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall:
31But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.
Romans 12:18-20 (The Message)
17-19Don’t hit back; discover beauty in everyone. If you’ve got it in you, get along with everybody. Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do. “I’ll do the judging,” says God. “I’ll take care of it.”
20-21Our Scriptures tell us that if you see your enemy hungry, go buy that person lunch, or if he’s thirsty, get him a drink. Your generosity will surprise him with goodness. Don’t let evil get the best of you; get the best of evil by doing good.
Psalm 34:5-7 (New International Version, ©2011)
5 Those who look to him are radiant;
their faces are never covered with shame.
6 This poor man called, and the LORD heard him;
he saved him out of all his troubles.
7 The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him,
and he delivers them.
There are more texts – and if I was not so seriously pushed for time, I might have launched into a more serious study on this. And I need to try and keep at least some of these posts shorter than others! But follow the thread – from the first text you could attempt to argue that if God will give you the strength to beat up on your enemies – but that’s not what the text is saying! And the following two texts rubber-stamp the fact that our justice in this world is in the hands of God – who has promised to deliver those who fear Him. Even as I type, I am struck by the fact that this subject is too big for one measly blog post. You guys will have to consider all this for yourselves.
Two more texts, though:
Matthew 10:28 (New King James Version)
28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.
John 16:33 (Contemporary English Version)
33 I have told you this, so that you might have peace in your hearts because of me. While you are in the world, you will have to suffer. But cheer up! I have defeated the world.
GOD, as ever, gets the last word. And I, for one, rejoice in this.