Last week (October 16, 2018) numerous news agencies reported the story of a man who fell victim to one of his own booby-traps. Neighbors described the 68-year-old Edwin Smith of Shelby, NC, as a kind and friendly man. But his kindness evidently didn’t extend to strangers. The many “Keep Out” and “No Trespassing” signs which littered his yard would scare away any Avon lady. One intimidating “Warning Sign” featured flood lights and a surveillance camera.
In fairness to Ed, his neighbors explained that a lot of drug-related activity had migrated into their area. He considered himself “on the defense” against it.
Part of his defense included booby traps which he set up around his property. One of these employed a loaded shotgun to guard his backdoor.
The problem with such booby-traps, however, is that they can hurt unintended targets. And that’s what happened with the shotgun booby-trap at his backdoor. He became the unintended target. It is not known if his booby-trap malfunctioned or he simply forgot it was there. But one morning, the triggered booby-trap shot Edwin in his right arm. To save him, medics air-evacuated him to a hospital in Raleigh. Consequently, what he intended for others came upon him.
These are the times that try believers’ souls. As our society becomes increasingly polarized, with each side demanding our allegiance, loyalty to Jesus becomes increasingly difficult. In the fury of the conflict, we are tempted to view other people as our enemies and resort to worldly tactics in retaliation. But to do this results in our defeat.
If we resort to hateful and hurtful practices, we disobey Christ’s command to love our enemies and to do good to those who persecute us (Luke 6:27-36). We are defeating Christ’s purpose to save humanity rather than to judge and destroy it (Luke 9:51-56; John 3:16-17). The Bible tells us that “mercy triumphs over judgment” because God’s preference is always to save sinners rather than to punish them (James 2:13). “As I live, says the LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his evil way and lives” (Ezekiel 33:11).
God judges sinners only because He has to. But He saves sinners because He loves to.
But there is another consequence to being hurtful in our words and actions. The tactics we employ against others can and will be used against us. Is that what we want? Jesus told, “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets” (Matthew 7:12, NLT). Doesn’t each of us yearn to be treated with respect and kindness? Then shouldn’t we follow Jesus Christ in the way He prayed for His persecutors and murderers (Luke 23:34)?
Look at what Peter wrote in the Scripture. “For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in his steps. He never sinned, nor ever deceived anyone. He did not retaliate when he was insulted, nor threaten revenge when he suffered. He left his case in the hands of God, who always judges fairly” (1 Peter 2:21-23, NLT).
The weapons of our warfare are not carnal or worldly or fleshly (2 Corinthians 10:4). But they are divinely powerful against the spiritual forces of wickedness. For instead of taking up Satan’s hatred, we arm ourselves with the Lord’s love, word, faith, and salvation. We put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make ourselves strong with His strength (Ephesians 6:10-12). Therefore, God’s attributes become our armor.
Don’t resort to booby traps, shotgun blasts, and fists in your struggle against sin, or you’ll become your own victim. Don’t assume the “attack position,” always poised to strike back. Rather poise yourself to bless, to pray, and to forgive. That’s how we win.
Dear Lord Jesus, again and again, bring my thoughts back to You. You blessed those who cursed You and prayed for those who crucified You. I cannot do this in my own strength and love, for I have none. Please fill me with Your Spirit and arm me with Your attributes of power and love. Help me to be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Make me an instrument of Your peace and salvation. Amen.