Monthly Archives: May 2014

Was King Jehu a Hypocrite, a Good Guy, or Both?

chariotThe story of King Jehu is found in 2 Kings 9 and 10. Jehu’s tale reads a bit like a Game of Thrones; fraught with barbaric gamesmanship. The Lord had Jehu anointed King and instructed him to wipe out the House of Ahab. (Ahab was a rather detestable fellow who encouraged the worship of a false god.) Anyhow, Jehu utterly destroyed the House of Ahab. Near the end of chapter 10 the Lord honored Jehu for following instructions. But there was a caveat with the Lord’s praise of Jehu: Jehu did not keep the law of the Lord with all his heart. Jehu’s policies caused the people of Israel to continue sinning. As a result, the Lord limited the House of Jehu’s reign to four generations. The Lord also began to reduce the size of Israel and their status in the region.

So what, specifically, did Jehu do wrong? The Bible says Jehu did not abandon the sins of Jeroboam, a nefarious former king. In other words, Jehu allowed the people of Israel to continue worshiping a golden calf. He also allowed them to worship God in an unauthorized place and he allowed unauthorized people to enter the priesthood. Jeroboam innovated in the wrong way and Jehu did not correct Jeroboam’s mistakes.

I never understood why Jehu would follow the Lord’s instructions requiring the removal by violence of an evil leader’s administration, and yet fail to follow the Lord’s instructions regarding worship. It wasn’t like Jehu was a wimp. It didn’t seem to add up. But then I noticed something interesting 2 Kings 10:16 where Jehu greets an associate just after slaughtering a bunch of Ahab’s followers:

“Jehu said, ‘Come with me and see my zeal for the Lord.’ Then he had him ride along in his chariot.”

Note Jehu’s braggadocios zeal for the Lord. Or was it for the Lord? I’m going to stick my neck out here and suggest that this statement sounds to me like someone who loves the work of the Lord more than he loves the person of the Lord. How many of us today fall into this trap? We enjoy the work of the Lord so much we begin to add, remove, and tolerate things the Lord never asked us to add, remove, or tolerate.

Here’s the point: Despite his enthusiasm for following God’s instructions to accomplish a specific task, Jehu was also a hypocrite who broke God’s rules. We are not much different than Jehu. We can be so enthusiastic about an assignment from the Lord that we lose sight of other areas where we may have run off the rails or where God wants to accomplish something in a way that’s different from our own. Jehu’s unbridled spirit got the best of him.

Stoning Monica Lewinsky: Again

Bill Clinton/Flickr/dbking

Bill Clinton/Flickr/dbking

I know the picture to the left is not Monica Lewinsky. It’s intentional. Anyhow, Monica Lewinsky, the former intern who had a sexual encounter with President Bill Clinton, will break her silence in an upcoming edition of Vanity Fair Magazine. This sounds juicy but let’s set aside the elements of sex, consent, difference in age, abuse of power, and politics. Instead, let’s use the Lewinsky article to think about how our culture responds to adultery. Frankly, the other-woman is often viewed as the primary villain. In Lewinsky’s case, she can scarcely find a job after the affair while Bill Clinton remains a popular figure to a large segment of society. Many of the people who like Bill Clinton refuse to acknowledge the seriousness of his actions because they adore the man and his positive qualities. Hence Lewinski became the bad guy. This type of immoral disparity, sadly, occurs in the church as well as in the secular culture. Granted, Bill Clinton was impeached, but he’s done pretty well for himself since then.

Over the years, I have read numerous reports about high-profile pastors who had to resign their positions because they had an affair. When these stories break, the church often issues a statement describing how, among other things, the church will support the defrocked pastor and his family through the aftermath of the affair. Church support can take the form of professional counseling services and a restoration process designed to get the fallen pastor back to a closer life with God. Here is where the disparity comes in: I have NEVER read a church statement about a pastor’s affair that included any reference to support, counseling, and restoration made available to the other-woman in the adulterous relationship. Perhaps these churches were attempting to respect the privacy of the other-woman, but I think it more likely these women were ignored or even shunned.

There is already fallout from Lewinsky’s upcoming story in Vanity Fair. I read one shocking comment where a reader placed the entire blame on Lewinsky because “she had an affair with a married man. She made her bed and needs to sleep in it.” The ignorance and gall of such a statement is beyond my comprehension. Such an attitude is similar to that found in backwater cultures where they still stone adulterous women to death but allow adulterous men to go relatively unpunished. I suppose we have not advanced as far as we think in the West where a woman who commits adultery is sentenced to metaphorical stoning by hurtful words and shaming while her male companion (and I’m being generous) gets a wink and a nod of near tolerance. Christ encountered this type disparity in John 8 when the religious leaders brought him a women caught in adultery to see if he would support the law’s requirement of stoning her. This is where Jesus uttered the famous words “let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone.” You know the rest of the story: her accusers walked away in shame. The outcome of this story makes me wonder how many of those men in the crowd had committed adultery themselves. Perhaps some had even committed adultery with the woman they were willing to stone. It goes to show how perverse and self-righteous people can be. Fortunately Jesus sees through our schemes, self-deception, and misogyny.

Why do I bring all this up? So we will raise hell the next time we see gender-based injustice occurring in our spheres of influence, especially if it happens in the church. I’m just saying!

Does Donald Sterling Buy His Beef From Cliven Bundy?

LA Clippers/Flickr/by Ytoyoda

LA Clippers/Flickr/by Ytoyoda

Maybe you’ve heard of Cliven Bundy. He’s the 67-year-old Nevada cattle rancher who recently landed in the national news when the federal government started impounding his cattle in early April, following a 20-year legal battle over cattle-grazing on federal land. For many years Bundy refused to pay the grazing fees. The conflict came to a head in the Nevada desert when a showdown between armed federal agents and armed Bundy supporters escalated to the brink of a gun battle. Eventually, federal authorities backed down and bloodshed was averted.

Those on the political right viewed Bundy as a folk hero who stood bravely against the heavy hand of an overreaching federal government. Those on the political left viewed Bundy as a moocher (oh the irony) refusing to pay for grazing fees like all other ranchers using federal land. But just as things were beginning to settle down in the Nevada desert, Bundy, while answering questions at a news conference, launched into his personal views on the plight of African Americans on government assistance, likening their plight to idleness, government subsidy (ironic), jail, abortion, picking cotton, and slavery. I don’t know if there was a legitimate moral message somewhere in the midst of Bundy’s observations on race and government assistance, but the word’s chosen and his delivery were not politically correct or helpful. In other words, he indeed sounded like a racist. This left those on the political right scrambling to distance themselves from Bundy the person without distancing themselves from the issue of an overreaching federal government. Those on the left used the opportunity of Bundy’s words to discredit Bundy, his cause, and all who supported his cause.

Skip ahead a couple weeks to April 29, 2014, and the saga of Donald Sterling, owner (or possibly a soon to be former owner) of the LA Clippers. The NBA banned Sterling from all NBA activities for life because of news that he had expressed his desire to a lady friend that she not bring black friends to Clippers games. His comments, if accurately portrayed, reflected a racist mentality. Swift public outrage led some advertisers to drop the LA Clippers. Talk of a player’s strike was bandied about. Many players, former players, team owners, representatives, sports media personalities, and fans praised the NBA commissioner’s swift and stern decision to ban Sterling from basketball. Now Sterling can only watch basketball on television. Yet this writer (always the skeptic) wonders if NBA leadership acted for purely moral reasons or because this incident stood to cost the league substantial revenue. If you have the ability to take away a significant chunk of an organization’s money, that organization’s leadership will find a way to take action to staunch the financial bleeding. This is an example of market forces (and politics) at work on a moral issue. Of course the opposite can also happen: if you promise to infuse a lot of money (with strings attached) into an organization, the leadership of the organization might be enticed to take no action or take an immoral action.

As an aside, the response of the NBA in the Sterling case is the proverbial slippery slope. In the future, what is to stop an organization from firing someone or canceling their contract because they hold unpopular views on gay marriage, global warming, suffrage (just kidding) or whatever the moral issue du jour? In such an environment it becomes easy to slip across the line from opposing a legitimate immorality to persecution of people with legitimate beliefs of conscience. Go back and re-read 1984. I guess we all need to make sure our thinking is right.

The morally superior attitude of many who responded to the words of Bundy and Sterling made me uncomfortable. Why? Because they view those who engage in this loathsome sin as irredeemable, people who should be completely discarded. But the Bible tells us it is possible to renew our minds. People can change. With God’s help, a racist can eliminate racism from his heart. And yet many who decry Bundy and Sterling come off like these two men have no hope of mercy and forgiveness.

As for Bundy and Sterling, they have encountered a hard reality about modern society: “When you play the game of thrones you win or you die.”