Revenge: A Dish Best Unserved

Revenge: A Dish Best Unserved

Thursday’s Column: Carlnormous Comments

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Carl Pollard

Growing up, April first was a nightmare in our house. Dale and I would plan months in advance all the pranks we would do to each other. April Fool’s Day would start with small, harmless pranks. I would put soap on Dale’s toothbrush, Dale would tape my matchbox cars to the wall. And everything would be fine…but not for very long. It always ended up getting out of hand. As the day progressed the pranks got meaner and dirtier. I’d get mad and put salt in Dale’s drink, and he would turn around and get revenge by pouring salad dressing in my shoes. I’d get even more upset and would light one of his toys on fire, and Dale would lock me in a closet. But there was one instance I can still remember clearly; it was near the end of April Fool’s Day so we were both at the peak of mean pranks. I stole Dale’s hat while we were at the park, and threw it in the pond. And Dale got his revenge by taking my brand new scooter and throwing it into the lake. It was never seen again. Needless to say, mom banned pranks on April Fool’s for the rest of our time at home.

I say all of that to illustrate the very simple point that revenge never ends well. It doesn’t cultivate relationships, and it never strengthens our influence. Romans 12:19 reads, “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.”

Taking revenge can be quite tempting. Our sin-fueled, human emotions will naturally push us to take revenge and to get even with those who hurt us. We want to hurt those who hurt us. We want to insult them and avenge ourselves. Why? Because if we are honest, it feels good. It feels good to brake check the person that cut us off. It feels good to insult the person that spoke rudely to us. It feels good to take revenge because. WE want to get even with others. We take revenge because we selfishly think only of ourselves and how it’ll make US feel. But if we want to be called God’s children we must leave the avenging to our Father.

As Christians we should expect the world to hurt us because it’s driven by sin. The Christian, however, shouldn’t be the same because we are led by God. Taking revenge harms our influence, and it shows that we don’t truly trust that God will avenge us. God is our avenger and we must be careful to not practice what God has rightfully claimed. By following this command, not only are we letting God take care of us,  we also open the door to a healthy relationship with those in the world as well as in the Church.

A Story You Don’t Hear In Vacation Bible School

A Story You Don’t Hear In Vacation Bible School

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

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Dale Pollard

Civil war has broken out in the kingdom after Saul’s death. David is a patriot who loves his people so he offers to treat Saul’s followers well after Judah crowns him as king. However, a man named, Abner, takes matters into his own hands and he defies God’s chosen king. He sets up Saul’s son, Ish-bosheth, as their new ruler instead. Abner, who was the general of Saul’s army, along with the servants of Ish-bosheth, make their way to the pool of Gibeon. This was a large pool carved out of rock by Saul’s father. Once they arrive they sit down. On the opposite side of the pool, Joab, David’s nephew, and his servants meet them and sit as well. Behind them, two armies stand in formation, ready for war— brother against brother. Abner, perhaps to prevent the death toll that a larger battle would bring, suggests that their servants fight for them. Joab agrees, but this idea quickly leads to a slaughter. Each servant grabs the other by the head, clinching hair in a tight fist, and cuts each other down simultaneously. This short altercation doesn’t provide a victor, so both armies charge each other. It’s a battle that is fought with so much passion, but God grants David’s army with the win. I imagine the Man After God’s Own Heart did not take joy in this victory. The chaos of war has already taken so much from him, including the life of his best friend, Jonathan.

After the battle of Gibeon has ended, David’s nephew, Asahel, takes off after the fleeing Abner. Asahel was known for his speed and agility, with it being likened to that of a gazelle. This speed allowed him to pass the others that were also in pursuit and he finds himself on the heels of Abner in no time. His swiftness will bring him a swift death. While Abner is not as quick, he is older with more experience. Twice Abner asks Asahel to stop this foolish attempt to take his life, but Asahel doesn’t take this advice. This is when Abner thrusts his spear behind him and the butt end of the spear goes through Asahel’s stomach and out the other side, killing the young warrior. 

This is probably an account you never heard in Vacation Bible School, but there is so much we can learn from this event found in 2 Samuel 2:12-24. We notice how deadly pride can be. First, there is the pride of Abner in rejecting David as king, and then there’s the pride of Asahel. He was famous for being quick on his feet, but clearly slow in thought. Preachers and teachers can become well known for their ability to speak and proclaim God’s word. This fame can also be their own spiritual downfall if they begin to think more of themselves than they should. When we post scriptures, baptisms, or other good deeds on social media for our own praise and admiration, God may be the only One that sees your heart. Those are the only eyes that matter since they belong to the One that will be our final Judge.

We also learn from this story that serving a dead king is futile. As Christians we serve the King of Kings, God’s anointed son. Those standing with Him will always win. Those that chose to take matters into their own hands are fighting a losing battle.

When we read about events like this in the Bible it should also make us thankful for the day when we will enjoy a place where there is no heartache, bloodshed, or wickedness. Even David had to endure his share of trials, but now he’s with the God he modeled his heart after— and, we can assume, Jonathan. No matter what struggle we may find ourselves tangled up in, let’s place our focus on that heavenly reunion. 

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photo via Flickr

ROUGHING UP THE REFEREE

ROUGHING UP THE REFEREE

Neal Pollard

Perhaps you have seen the video of two John Jay High School football players targeting an official late in their loss last Friday to their Marble Falls, Texas, opponent.  Marble Falls was running out the clock to preserve their win.  Details have not been divulged to explain why the players were angry or why they took apparent revenge by blindsiding the unwitting official. It does not take too much discernment to conclude they must not have liked something this referee said or did prior to their inappropriate response.  Whether or not the official provoked these young men to anger, all would have to agree that whatever moral authority they might have had disappeared after their vicious tackle of the defenseless man (Read and watch here).

Umpires and referees exist to keep order, to enforce and interpret the rules, and make judgments about whether the game is being played as it should be. They are not a popular lot, as attested by the heckling they can receive and the jokes made about them. We may even wonder what draws a person to take on such a job.  They make an easy target for those who often know less than and have a worse view than the one on the field or the court who must execute their judgment in real time.

While as a preacher and the son of a preacher I have seen and experienced ministers blindsided by angry hearers who confused the message with the messenger, I see a much more maligned, misunderstood, and marked group whose judgment and decision-making has occasionally been unfairly attacked.  No wonder Peter promises faithful elders that they will receive a superlative reward (1 Pet. 5:4). There is certainly such a thing as bad leadership and decision-making, and elders are fallible human beings. Yet, I have never yet seen an eldership practice church discipline without at least a few members taking a cheap, undeserved shot at them for trying to follow and get God’s people to follow His “rules.”  Whenever they are faced with a difficult decision in the realm of judgment, like eliminating an ineffective ministry or starting a challenging one, a change or alteration to the place of meeting, letting a preacher go or hiring another one, or the like, they may get figuratively roughed up.

The New Testament urges a different attitude from the spiritually mature.  Paul says appreciate and highly esteem them in love (1 Th. 5:12-13). The writer of Hebrews tells us to be the kind of sheep that bring our leaders “joy and not grief” as grievous fellowship isn’t profitable even for us (Heb. 13:17).  Be careful what you say about elders (cf. 1 Tim. 5:19). In fact, why not let them know, out of the blue, how much you appreciate their efforts to shepherd the flock (cf. Acts 20:28).  That may knock them off their feet, but it will be in the good way!