2 Samuel 20
I remember a cartoon from my youth. I think it was Yosemite Sam who was being tormented by a fly. No matter how often he swatted at the fly, and no matter what he used to bat at the fly, the fly kept dive-bombing him. Then the fly landed on the wall. And Yosemite Sam quickly aimed his rifle and blew a hole in the wall.
Ever hear the saying, “Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater?”
Joab wanted Sheba. Sheba had turned traitor and started a rebellion against King David. Joab knew Sheba had to be stopped, and he was willing to go to any length to do just that; even going as far as destroying an entire city and the inhabitants who lived there.
A wise woman helped him see the error of his ways. The city was saved, and the guilty man paid for his own crimes.
When I was a young teacher just beginning my career, we were encouraged to discipline children gently. If a child misbehaved we were told to say something like, “Some of you are having trouble following the rules. We need a time out. Everybody put your heads down on your desk and stay quiet.”
Did you, as part of a class of children, ever have to stay in at recess because a few of your classmates hadn’t done their homework? You’d done yours. But that didn’t matter. Everybody paid the consequences for the few.
Part of the rationale was protecting the egos and feelings of the guilty, believing they’d recognize on their own they were responsible for everyone missing recess, feel bad, and change their behavior.
Yah. That didn’t work. Those ornery kids soon realized the power they had over all of us, including the teacher.
I think what the wise woman helped Joab to see was the importance of accountability. If a person does something wrong, you don’t slap their child.
I don’t think we Christians are very good at holding each other accountable for our misdeeds, our sins. Yet throughout Scripture I see evidence that is what God wants us to do.
Jesus Himself gave us the guidelines in Matthew 18:15-17.
If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.
Paul, in Galations 6:1 says it like this:
Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted
God tells us we are to address sin, confront it, remove it from our midst. We should never allow sin to get a foothold in our fellowships. The Church has to remain holy.
But you don’t give up on the Church. You don’t walk out just because you recognize a hypocrite in the pew in front of you. You don’t get angry and start a rebellion. You go to that person and lovingly confront the issue, like Jesus taught us.
The guilty party may need to be disciplined, but you don’t destroy a church (or a city in the case of Joab) to deal with the problem. You don’t blow a hole in the wall to kill a fly. And you don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.
Let’s hold each other accountable. You may save a brother or sister from a world of hurt, and at the same time strengthen the body of Christ. I believe with all my heart that is what would please our Lord.