For the last few decades, some highly visible Christian leaders and organizations have provided a steady supply of scandals that make other Christians cringe.
Why do too many of us turn a blind eye to obvious evil and let it slide? Though we still battle our own sin, God calls us to holy battles that are his. Avoiding conflict isn’t a choice he offers. With this in mind, let’s take another look at King Saul and the Amalekites:
Then Samuel said to Saul, “The Lord sent me to anoint you as king over His people, over Israel; now therefore, listen to the words of the Lord. This is what the Lord of armies says: ‘I will punish Amalek for what he did to Israel, in that he obstructed him on the way while he was coming up from Egypt. Now go and strike Amalek and completely destroy everything that he has, and do not spare him; but put to death both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.’” (1 Samuel 15:1-3 NASB)
Why such extreme measures? First, the Amalekites were despicable, corrupt people – but there’s more to God’s call here. Tim Keller’s explanation of God’s purpose in curtailing their evil is helpful. Listen to minutes 6:29-8:44 of his sermon on I Samuel 15.
Here are selected verses from the chapter showing Saul’s self-evaluation of his response to God’s specific orders and Samuel’s confrontation of Saul:
So Samuel came to Saul, and Saul said to him, “Blessed are you of the Lord! I have carried out the command of the Lord.” (1 Samuel 15:13 NASB)
Then Samuel said to Saul, “Stop, and let me inform you of what the Lord said to me last night.” And he said to him, “Speak!”
So Samuel said, “Is it not true, though you were insignificant in your own eyes, that you became the head of the tribes of Israel? For the Lord anointed you as king over Israel. And the Lord sent you on a mission, and said, ‘Go and completely destroy the sinners, the Amalekites, and fight against them until they are eliminated.’ Why then did you not obey the voice of the Lord? Instead, you loudly rushed upon the spoils and did what was evil in the sight of the Lord!” (1 Samuel 15:16-19 NASB)
Samuel reminds Saul that he was once an unimportant person, even in his own estimation. God had chosen Saul to lead the nation and subsequently to lead a specific mission against the Amalekites. After becoming king, Saul became arrogant. He viewed himself as fully obedient, but in reality practiced selective obedience and blame shifting. Saul deceived himself not only by failing to fully curtail the evil of the Amalekites, but by taking a bonus payment of the Amalekites’ best stuff.
If we are to avoid Saul’s failure, we must follow Jesus.
…I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me. And he who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to him.” (John 8:28-29 ESV)
Saul’s partial obedience, greed, and self-deception are a warning to us.
Have you observed a situation in the Church, or even in yourself, where evil is covered over and unaddressed? Do you fear harm will result if you challenge the status quo maintained by Christians who seem smarter or on a higher level of authority than you? If you don’t want to risk challenging evil, are you afraid of what will happen if you expose yourself or someone close? Do you think remaining “neutral” is possible? Who are you ultimately accountable to?
Taking action against evil can get complicated because human relationships are at risk, and we also fear that our own sinful behavior disqualifies us from having a voice. If God is asking you any of the above questions, go before the throne of grace and ask for wisdom and power to think and act in the way and with the heart of Jesus.