Sin will always play on our basic human tendencies. We already have the desire somewhere deep in our hearts to go there. The enemy just needs to tempt us. This why, by the way, that Jesus could be “tempted” and yet not sin. There was simply no hint of sin anywhere in his soul. There was no foothold for the enemy, nothing he could sink his teeth into.
When we consider the lives, mistakes, faithfulness and failures of the patriarchs, it can sometimes be very difficult to see who is in the right and who is in the wrong. In fact, as I’m sure you’ve realized by now, it’s almost always that way. No one is untainted by the experience. No one has been born any different – at least not in the sense of a propensity to sin. Everyone has it in them. Everyone is capable of a certain level of poor judgment and disobedience.
When we read the horrible story of the rape of Dinah, we can all probably relate on some level to both Jacob and his sons. You may find that you relate to one more than the other and that’s fine. That is most likely a product of your personality and experiences. But here’s the question: who was right? Or, in the discussions that follow, who made the better argument?
Let’s review the facts: Dinah is raped and then her attacker’s father comes to Jacob with a request that she be released to his son as his wife. A generous offer is made to Jacob, after which his sons devise a plan – actually, it’s more of a scheme – and using their deception they manage to kill every man in the city and take the women and children with them.
Afterward, a confrontation ensues between Jacob and his sons. Jacob is furious, as his son’s actions have put him and his family at risk. The sons argue that they should not tolerate their women being treated like that. Both are right, and both are terribly wrong.
Jacob is older and knows something his sons don’t. Our actions always affect other people. If we so quickly take revenge when someone wrongs us, the consequences could be even further pain suffered by the people we love. This is Jacob’s point, not that his own life might be in jeopardy but “I and my household…”. Having said that, Jacob is most likely just too quick to get along. He will always have that self-preservative tendency to look out for number one. In his past, he has done this at the expense of his character, and perhaps this would have been much of the same had his sons not intervened.
Levi and Simeon on the other hand, were indeed too reckless in their behavior. Theirs was an overreaction to say the least. It was simply not a proportional response. Their sister was defiled, so every mother, daughter, sister and wife in town would pay by losing their son, father, brother and husband. Every man they had ever known would be wiped out in a single day. Would that really right the wrong that had been done to Dinah? But…would it have been better to give her over to attacker to be his wife? After all, when a man is bold enough after this act to say “just name your price”, what he’s really saying is “I’m not taking ‘no’ for an answer”.
I believe the problem is that the more we experience the ways of the world without a healthy dose of God’s Word to counteract its effect, the more worldly we become. The loftier idea of morality (knowing right from wrong) soon becomes something else called moral conviction (what feels right or wrong), which is another term for personal morals (I decide what is wrong), which is another way of saying I make up my own rules (my way is right). In this alternate reality, we tend to justify everything that we do for one reason or another. What some might point out as a misstep in our lives can easily be explained if they truly knew our side of the story.
What we must remember is that sin will always play on our basic human tendencies. If it feels right, don’t do anything. This isn’t about feelings. There are moral absolutes, and though I have certainly failed and not lived up to the principles that I claim to have, I know this after coming out the other side: it is never wrong to do right. It is never right to do wrong. My best advice? Listen to your conscience. If you find yourself in one of those situations where your morals are questioned, bail out immediately on the side of doing what you know is right. Pick up the pieces of whatever happens next afterward. Honest mistakes can be corrected. You can grow and learn from them. However, when we err on the side of diplomacy – and in doing so compromise our morals even the slightest – we do something to our soul that is more permanent than we’d like to believe. Don’t corrupt your soul, feed it. Make an appointment to feed on God’s Word today and ask him to help you fight the good fight.