The Logic of Revenge

I lead a short-term discipleship group on Wednesday nights.  I ask a few people to give me ten Wednesday nights, and then I use those ten Wednesday nights to show those people how I hear from God (receive input from God, interact with God, am guided or directed by God; whichever term you prefer).  I used the whiteboard in my office during these Wednesday nights, depicting the ideas I am teaching with some images my mentors taught me.

A couple Thursdays ago, I came in to the office to find this on the board:

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What really stumped me about this was that little bit on the right side which says “Kill everybody” and “be nice”.  For a minute, I wondered what that was all about.  “What did I say last night?” I asked myself.  Then I remembered: I was using the story of David and Nabal as an example of the discipleship (or learning) circle I was teaching.

We find David and Nabal in 1 Samuel 25.  During his outlaw years, David and his men watched over Nabal’s sheep.  When they asked for payment for this protection, Nabal refused them.  In anger, David told his men to strap on their sword, promising to kill every male in Nabal’s house.  (The KJV says David promises to kill “any that pisseth against the wall”; forgive my immature potty mind, but I just find that funny.)

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Fortunately, Nabal’s wife Abigail, whom I greatly honor and call “the woman who stopped a war”, heard about this and intercepted David.  She gave him a gift and talked him down, so that he abandoned his bloody plans.

That in itself is a great story.  What makes it greater, though, is something I once heard a preacher say about this story.  This preacher (whose name and face I have forgotten) spoke in a chapel service at my Bible college.  He spoke on this passage.  And what he said as he discussed the first part of the passage is that David had seen “the logic of revenge”.

What a great line.  That line is so great that I have remembered it ever since.  I have heard hundreds if not thousands of sermons, and I can only remember a handful of them.  I can only remember a handful of things I heard from them (many of the ones I can’t remember did their jobs and affected my life, so that’s not a slight against them; it is just true that I don’t remember any of them).  I remember this sermon, though.  I remember this line.

And I think it is right.  Revenge, as I think we all know, is a sinful thing.  We know it is forbidden in several places in the Bible (Romans 12:19 et al).  I personally find it to be repulsive.  I’m sure you do as well.

I personally find it repulsive when other people do it, that is.  When I do it (or am tempted to do it), it doesn’t seem so repulsive.  It seems logical, reasonable, right.  That’s what this preacher was talking about with this phrase “the logic of revenge”.  Killing all the innocent people in a house for the sins of the head of the house seemed logical at the time to David.  It clearly isn’t, as we can all see.  But it seemed logical to him at the time.

That’s the problem with this sin and any sin.  It always seems logical at the time.  It always has a logic to it.  It might not be a good logic; it might be a shallow and senseless as Helen Lovejoy’s logic here, but it is a logic nonetheless.

God, though, speaks a different logic, a superior logic.  By the grace of God, David heard that different, superior from God through Abigail.  By the grace of God, we can likewise hear a different, superior logic from God and be led on a different, superior path than the one we are blazing for ourselves.  That’s what I tried to teach my group that Wednesday night.  I forgot it was what I taught them, but it was, and it is good.  There is “the logic of revenge”.  There is a logic to all sinful, destructive acts.  But God is offering us a greater logic.  May we hear Him.