This design was inspired by 2 Kings 2:23-24 - "From there Elisha went up to Bethel. As he was walking along the road, some boys came out of the town and jeered at him. 'Get out of here, baldy!' they said. 'Get out of here, baldy!' He turned around, looked at them and called down a curse on them in the name of the Lord. Then two bears came out of the woods and mauled forty-two of the boys." I really had to wrestle with this text. This text is not happy-go-lucky, it's downright horrifying. Yet also, darkly humorous. Here comes one of the most prominent prophets of the Northern Kingdom of Israel (the kingdom had split after Solomon, long story of who should be his heir) and these 'young people' (the text is unclear how old exactly) start making fun of the guy and telling him to get lost! And to add insult to injury, call him bald! His response is to call down a curse in God's name, I can't help but hear him say "you damn kids" somewhere in there. God's response is swift and brutal. Two bears come outta nowhere and start killing them! The text finds the body count important: 42 dead. This text may make us uncomfortable. In this time where we are squeamish towards confrontation and asking "why can't we all just get along?" can this text really be holy? I would say that yes, yes it can. In larger context, this folkloric tale is but another example of Moses' sermon of blessings and curses in Deuteronomy. Summed up, if we do good, we get blessed, if we do bad, cursed. In light of this, Elisha is not invoking bears to come kill 42 peeps because he's angry. He's merely speaking the judgment that they have passed upon themselves. Now, before we rush to the youth's defense let's look again. 42 of the younglings were killed, which implies there were more there that survived. How many people were ganging up on this prophet? Also, mocking could translate to mere verbal abuse or include beating Elisha up. So the bears could have been saving a life here. So how do we apply this to today? God's stance is clear. Injustice and abuse should not be tolerated. This is not, however, counter to the Gospels. While Jesus preached love your enemies, you also find examples of him rebuking his own disciples when they misstep. You even find him taking a bullwhip to the temple and tossing tables when confronted with the money changers. These two messages are not mutually exclusive. We can love our enemies without condoning abusive behaviors. We can be intolerant towards injustices and still love our neighbors. That is what this text is here to remind us of. Don't be fooled into believing that being a Christian is just about being nice to others. I would argue that being 'nice' is not Christian at all, especially when there's so much injustice in the world that needs to be addressed. Therefore, in order to address injustice we should both pray and speak up. Speak truth to the powers that corrupt justice and demand our compliance. Call out members of authority who abuse their power. And reach out to those who have been abused by systems and by people, especially those who have been hurt by our own. Christians and others have been hurt by the Church. A lot of them. Way more than 42. And sometimes, the reasons were because of injustices enacted by the Church. This should be remedied.
Tags: hebrew-bible, bible-study, gory, religious, religion