Monday, April 17, 2023

Junior High Pranksters and Suffering Heroes

Suggested Reading: Genesis 39:7-23

When I was in junior high, our theater teacher invited the cast of the most recent play over to his house for a cast party. Several of us were standing around in the front yard talking when a couple of guys decided it would be fun if they moved the teacher's car down the street. I warned them not to, told them it was stupid and, even once they had the door open and were pushing it down the block, I was urging them to put it back before something unexpected happened. Sure enough, a few moments later they realized that the steering wheel was locked, the car was picking up speed. And the open door was heading right for a massive brick mailbox. All the pranksters panicked.

I ran for the car, reached it right before it hit the mail box, stuck a foot in and pressed the break, and got pinned between the door and the brick mailbox. I managed to save the door but it did get a little bent. But even though I had argued against moving the car and had managed to keep the door from being completely popped off when the pranksters themselves panicked, the following week I got a bill in the mail for damages to the car. It didn't seem right. I could have walked away when the pranksters began, instead of trying to talk them out of it. I could have gone to the back yard when the car started picking up speed instead of saving it. In either case I would have avoided the bill in the mail. But for doing what seemed to a junior high kid to be the right thing I ended up getting lumped in with the bad guys.

Joseph knew even more about that than I did. When Potiphar's wife propositioned him, Joseph did the right thing. When she let all the servants have the day off so she could seduce Joseph in secret, Joseph ran away so fast that he left his cloak in the grasping hands of the temptress. She put Joseph’s garment beside her until his master came home. Then she told him the same story: “The Hebrew slave you brought to us came to make a fool of me, but when I screamed for help, he left his garment with me and ran outside.” (Genesis 39:16-18, HCSB). As a result, Joseph ended up in prison, forgotten for years. The frustrating thing for Joseph must have been knowing that if he had become her lover she probably would have protected him instead of turning on him.  But Joseph did the right thing and he suffered for it.

We live in a fallen, sinful world where it doesn't always pay to do the right thing, at least at the time. Doing the right thing means that we will sometimes be taken advantage of, be fought against with nasty, vicious attacks, and suffer when we could easily have walked away and remained unscathed. We must be under no illusions that doing the right thing will make our lives easier or safer. If we only choose to do the right thing because it will make our lives easier, our integrity will falter when life gets tough. We must be committed to doing the right thing whether it is safe or not, whether we prosper or suffer for it. Our motivation for doing the right thing is pleasing God, maintaining our relationship with God, and demonstrating we are children of God. Any motivation based on how things work out for us will eventually cause us to walk away from our integrity when we should be standing firm.

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