(Trigger warning: The following post mentions rape.)
One of my favorite pastimes used to be (still is?) comparing myself to others.
I would do it just to double check that I was a good person doing the right things.
If one of my friends was drinking and partying, I reminded myself that I was good because I didn’t even want to do those things. If one of my friends was having sex, I felt better about being single, because at least I hadn’t committed that sin. Even if someone I knew had recently achieved something or had some great success, that comparison of my sins to their sins often calmed my jealousy. At least I was a little better of a person than her.
And when it comes to people in the Bible, wow! It’s easy to feel good about ourselves in comparison. Especially, I would think, in this chapter, Judges 19, which features the darkest story in the Bible thus far.
But somehow, compared to this chapter, we have more in common than we ever could have imagined.
When one thing leads to another
The story starts off simply enough. Boy meets girl. Boy marries girl. But then girl is unfaithful and leaves boy. The boy goes after her and finds her at her father’s home. They reconcile. They have a grand old time with girl’s father. Everything is lovely.
Then boy and girl leave to come back home. It’s late, thanks to the father convincing them to stay longer than they expected. But boy is determined to make this journey, to bring his prize home.
Boy and girl stop in an Israelite town for the night – Gibeah of the tribe of Benjamin. They have no place to stay – until a nice old man offers to let them spend the night at his place.
And then things take a turn. Some men of the town surround the house. They demand the nice old man bring the male traveler he took in out to them. They want to rape him.
The old man refuses, horrified. “Take my daughter and his concubine instead”, he says. The mob protests, getting angrier, louder, more dangerous.
So boy sends his girl out to them.
She is raped all night. In the morning, she crawls back to the old man’s home. She dies on the doorstep.
Boy comes outside. He nudges her with his foot. “Get up. Let’s go.” (verse 28). But she is dead, so she doesn’t respond.
Boy takes girl’s corpse home. He cuts her into pieces. He sends her pieces to all the tribes in Israel.
Why does he do this? To drum up outrage. Outrage at the horrible thing these Benjamites did to good people like the boy and his girl.
Because even though he was the one who callously tossed his concubine out to the mob to be raped; even though he was the one who failed to protect her, who perhaps even got his revenge on her for being unfaithful; even though he was the one who acted nonchalant the next morning, as if he hadn’t sent her to hell with his own hands – at least he hadn’t been the one who raped her. He was the hero, who had traveled far to get his girl back. He was the good guy.
The majority of us are not rapists, but we all think we are good people.
We compare our sins to the next guy’s, praising ourselves for being not that bad. We excuse ourselves, explain away our worst tendencies, rationalize our actions, and even insist that God will eventually get over it too because He knows our heart.
But our hearts are deceitful. Our own hearts convince us that one thing led to another and that’s why we sinned. Our own hearts push us to blame God, not us, because He’s the one who allowed evil. Our own hearts exonerate us, absolve us, and the logic our hearts employ is convincing, comforting.
Our hearts are beyond cure. Made up of the same material, guided by the same sinful nature, no heart is inherently better than another one. Left alone, given up to their own choices, they produce every modern horror we see today.
Who can understand us? Who can make any sense of the mess we’ve made? Who would even want to? Who is able to?
“I am your only hope.”
In order to escape darkness or to overcome darkness, its opposite must be introduced. Something outside of the darkness, of a completely different material than the darkness, more powerful than the darkness, has to enter to transform the darkness, to rescue the darkness.
Judges 19 is one of the darkest chapters in the Bible. It’s also one of the few chapters in the Bible where God isn’t even mentioned.
We can’t change what happened in Judges 19. But we can change what happens in our own lives. We can introduce Light.
Thankfully, Light is ready for us. God wants us. He wants us to call on Him. He wants to show us His power. He wants to heal us and rescue us and change our lives.
It’s easy to look at the world around us and see doom and no way to escape it.
But compare the love we’re capable of to the kind of Love that accepted torture and suffering in order to give us another chance. Compare our human power to the kind of Power that fought death and won, raising from the grave. Compare our earthly wisdom to the Wisdom that created the vast universe and all of its intricate, complex, astonishing processes and components.
If there’s any way out, Jesus is it. We may not be good people, but our good God has promised to save us, transform us, and take us away from this dark world.
It’s time to turn the Light on.
What do you think? Do you think the only hope we have to find goodness and happiness is Jesus?