There is a very short story in the Bible that makes many people, Christian and non-Christian alike, wonder about God’s goodness. Until my daughter brought it to my attention recently, I had never read it before. It seems Elisha, a prophet of God, was being called names by a group of young men. Elisha cursed them in the name of the Lord and left. As he walked away, two bears came from the woods and mauled forty-two of them to death. What a horrible outcome! No wonder people are alarmed when they read it.
I’m not sure what to make of this story that seems so cruel on God’s part. Many people conclude that God sent the bears to carry out Elisha’s curse. But if we believe that, then we also must believe God sent Elisha to these young men as well. The bloodshed that day may not belong to God at all, but someone else entirely.
Elisha’s job as a prophet was to call people back to true God to worship him alone. It was no easy task. The culture around him was practicing idol worship and had turned away from God altogether. Enter a group of young men bringing down taunts and ridicule on Elisha, telling him he might as well not exist. His response? He cursed them and walked away, taking with him their last chance to know God. The taunters were right. That day, he might as well not exist.
Our role today is much like that of the prophets. We are called to make God and his ways known to the world around us. Our technique is different, but the mission is the same. Jesus has instructed us to love the world as he loved the world. Not easy when it seems like the world is always pushing back and ridiculing our beliefs. But I pray our response will not match Elisha’s. The world cannot find God if we choose to curse it and walk away. No one wins in that scenario.
What would have happened if Elisha had interacted with these young men? No one knows, but these young men were part of the people he was supposed to deliver the message God had commissioned him to carry. Instead, he headed out for other places. I can help but think that perhaps if he had detained them with words of God instead of curses, they would have missed crossing paths with hostile bears altogether.
The world is a dangerous place. We all need God in our lives. Why do we think it’s our place to decide who is worthy to hear about him and experience his love and who is not? Let’s take our mission of loving the whole world seriously. We cannot just walk away. Let’s love our neighbors. It is an action that could very well save people’s lives.
I am afraid the church is going to find itself as ineffective as Elisha was as he walked away that day. People around us want to know God. It’s our job to help them. The first step is to love God completely, and the second step is like the first— to love the world just the same. When we do, everyone’s lives change for the better. Don’t walk away. It may be the last chance you have to make a difference.
A Teachable Moment
Since writing this, I have encountered a hands-on example of my role in the world. (God is quite good at reinforcing his message.) My granddaughter, Charis, and I had a bit of heated discussion over current events recently. This almost thirteen-year-old is very passionate about what she is learning about the world and wants to share it with everyone. She is finding her voice. I am so very proud of her. There were, however, a few places in her argument that didn’t resonate with me. Between her passionate way of arguing and her air of disrespect, I very much felt like Elisha. Walking away from the conversation seemed the preferable option.
But then, God reminded me of my young adult years and my words filled with an enthusiasm I desperately wanted others to hear and how I felt when they seemed to fall on deaf ears. He also pointed out my role as grandmother and how I can help Charis move towards adulthood and maturity. I am there to guide and love her as she works through learning to be a woman with strong opinions and convictions. I can be a safe place for her to express herself and practice speaking her mind. I want her to grow up to make a difference in the world. I need to do all I can to help her balance truth and love in a way others can hear her message.
Please join me in prayer for the next generation and our role in their lives as they prepare to impact the world.
Where is it in the Bible?
I challenge each of you to take a more in-depth look into the Scriptures. I have linked each passage with the book and chapter it is found in so that you can see it in context. Please read them, write them out, dig deep into their meaning, ponder them, and make them yours. Knowing God’s word will not only change you, but it will also change the world.
- ‘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. 2 Kings 2:23-24
- ‘Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.‘ Romans 12:1,9-11,13-21
‘Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. ‘Galatians 6:9