The boy doesn’t…pay back evil for evil

Who is good enough for my daughter?  Parents regularly say that only those “good enough” can date or marry our children, right?  I wonder if most of us have figured out what that means before it’s too late (e.g., bubba just rang the door bell)?  In other words, what type of boy will I let in the front door?

We continue this short series on the character qualities of the kind of boy that I want to hear ask me for my daughter’s hand.  First was, courage.  Today’s is that he shouldn’t be inclined to pay back evil for evil.

The Bible is clear enough that when it comes to vengeance or retribution, only God is expert enough to handle it.  Thankfully, this evidence is clearly stated,

Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord (Romans 12:19)

O LORD, O God of vengeance, O God of vengeance shine forth! (Psalm 94:1)

Still, we try.  Clear examples are all around us.  For many (especially boys), it’s on the ball field.  Surely the boy will find himself on what we used to call the “field of friendly strife” (i.e., athletic field).  When he does, he will be learning important lessons about life and about his place in it.  I spoke to a good friend recently about how when boys get on the field, each one is desperately trying to establish and maintain his place of prowess in light of all the rest.  Sometimes the overflow of this is seen in red cards (soccer), face-masks (football), hitting a batter (baseball) or charging (basketball).  When it happens, you can be sure that one has challenged another’s position in the rankings.  These challenges are evil.  Strictly speaking they are retributions, punishments, and vengeance-efforts.

Will a boy resort to this?

  • Will his lifestyle be one of “bowing up” or “kicking against the goads”?  Is his answer to authority to always resist and sometimes rebel?

Listen dad, you, out there, parenting that boy that will one day show up at my door.  Sure, every man has his moment but I will turn him away faster than he can say “bonehead” if his lifestyle resembles these things.  And I should and so should you.

Just why do we think God would take the time to state, illustrate and command us that He is One in charge of justice and vengeance?  Clearly, it is because we are so prone to want to be judge, jury and executioner.  As we parent our boys, do we instill in them the vengeance-ethic?  “Real men don’t take that crap.”  “Real men don’t get run over like that.”  “Men don’t get mad they get even.”  We secretly believe this slimy code of conduct and we inculcate it in our young boys.  For the sake of my daughters, don’t do it.

In a stroke of what was clearly the wisdom from above, I recently had a conversation with my son about this issue.  Of course, we started on the field of friendly strife and ventured into other fields.  Namely, what to do when you’re in the hen house and another rooster wants to fight?  Enough of the metaphor: he tackled a kid in football, the kid got up and tackled him from behind after the play.  What do we do with this?  I detected in my son a couple of response options rolling around in his head: a) quit the game to deal with the embarrassment, b) bust the kid’s head or c)??.  He was dealing with a) and c).  What does a boy do when, in the front of all of his peers, he’s the victim of a vengeful act?  What would God have him do?

(Here’s where the wisdom from above came in).  I told him that vengeance belongs to the Lord and if he were to have busted the kid’s head, that would’ve been sin.  I convinced him that leaving the field was bad for several reasons not the least of which is that the other kid’s act was sinful, and God tells us to confront sinners (Luke 17:3, Matthew 18:15, Galatians 6:1).  So, dad tells boy that next time, he turn, and confront the kid on his actions – put the ball in his hands (so to speak) – and stand there and wait to see what happens.  “Let God work on that kid’s heart” I said.  Predictably, boy asks dad, “What if he gets mad and comes after me?”  I told my little warrior that he stand firm, wrap him up and help him remember that interactions of this sort are costly for him (there were warriors in Israel, remember).

Not wanting that to be the last word then (or here), we ended on the process: play fair, confront as needed, stand firm and defend thoroughly as appropriate.

Listen, dads, if a boy shows up on my door with a battle record that reveals truth, tenacity, and self-defense, we’ll move on to other areas gladly.  If not, then he’ll be home early.

Fairness Meters In Our Heads…They’re On!

We all say, at some time in our lives, “that’s not fair!”  Parents can count on hearing this all the time from their children.  Even those who are the most obsessed about keeping their kids from uttering the words, like infant-sized temper tantrums, the impulse to judge is hard wired into who we are.  (Those same obsessive parents will then be saying, “Hey, this isn’t fair!”)  Oh, for a dollar for all the conversations where the originating comment was “that’s not fair!”

Let’s talk about fairness, then.  If you sat down with a pen and paper to answer the query, “What in your life, in your judgment, isn’t fair?” the chances that you’d be staring at a blank piece of paper after five minutes are close to nil.  From the shape of our bodies to the size of what’s in our bank accounts; from the cars we drive to the phones we carry; from the promotions we didn’t get to the taxes that we have to pay.  Our fairness meters are very active.

Is this on your list of unfair things “I’m going to heaven”?  If you’re a Christian, it’s likely that you’ve considered the patent unfairness of that statement.  If you haven’t, you should.  I was reflecting on these words from William Farley’s book, Gospel Powered Parenting (pg. 75):

The Father’s love for his Son is intense: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Matt. 3:17).  It is not a common love.  It is holy.  He loves his Son with omnipotence, which means all power, with infinite intensity.  He loves his Son with omniscience – all knowledge.  His gaze penetrates the infinite perfection of his Son’s deity.  Since the Son’s glory is infinite, only an infinite intellect can fully know and love him.  He knows the Son exhaustively, and what the Father knows and sees is the infinite perfection of the Son’s divinity.

But here is the stunning truth: such is the holiness of the Father that when the Son bore our sin and transgressions, God separated himself from him.  “My God, my God,” Jesus cried from the cross, “why have you forsaken me?”  (Matt. 27:46).

The holiness of God, His utter uniqueness and separation from all that’s not like Him, at that time demanded that He turn from His Son.  The very One with Whom He’d spent eternity in perfect harmony and relationship.  Why on earth would He ever do such a thing? Jesus’ quote of Psalm 22 about being forsaken is surely among the most stunning and breathtaking statements ever written.  Do we not see just what has taken place?

Add this to your paper (under a new heading, “Really Not Fair”),

  • I was born in sin (Psalm 51:5)
  • I sin because it was my nature (Ephesians 2:1-2)
  • My sins will lead to my death – justly and fairly (Romans 6:23)

Drumroll….

  • They don’t (Romans 6:4)

They don’t.  But why don’t they?  They must!  I am the man!  I am the angry man; I am the thief; I am the adulterer; I am the one who rages against the rule of God!  I am the one guilty of my sins.  Why on earth do we read of the blameless Holy Son walking the streets of Jerusalem soaked in blood carrying a cross?  Why is He the one who’s been nailed to it?  Why?

Don’t talk yourself into the good news until you’ve come to grips with the cosmic truth that what happened at Calvary wasn’t fair.  All that is or isn’t fair is judged in light of that event.  Those events weren’t fair in ways that we can never really grasp – larger ways that should scare you.  Do Paul’s words in Romans 8, stun you?

What then shall we say to these things?  If God is for us, who can be against us?  He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things?

Shocking truths that we must consider.  This leads to what we must also talk ourselves into: the truth that in Jesus Christ, having been covered in His blood, we appear before the throne of God.  And as He looks to you and me, affection and welcome and rest are given in abundant measures.  Wow.

I am scarcely able to lift my head to gaze upon them…But, I don’t have to, He reaches down to all those who call upon His name and He lifts our heads (Psalm 3:3).  His grace never ends.  Alleluia.