It’s remarkable to me how each time I read the Proverbs, different things come to the surface and stand out to me. Today’s reading of Proverbs 18 brought verse 19 to center stage where the footlights shine the brightest:
An offended brother is more unyielding than a fortified city, and disputes are like the barred gates of a citadel.
The question came to mind: Is this a literal brother, as in family? A brother in the faith? Someone from the community? The church I attend? Not being at home where all my books are, I thought about it some through the day and came to a decision. —”Probably” 😀
There’s an illustration of the concept in 1 Samuel 17, just before the passage we all know about David squaring off against the giant Goliath. David (the kid-brother, remember) has been annointed as Israel’s future King (1 Sam. 16) but he’s still the twirp to his brothers; at least his oldest brother Eliab. Look at what Eliab says to him in 17.28. He burned with anger at him and asked, “Why have you come down here? And with whom did you leave those few sheep in the desert? I know how conceited you are and how wicked your heart is; you came down only to watch the battle.”
“Now what have I done?” said David. “Can’t I even speak?” (poor kid)
Sounds pretty unyielding to me, does it you? Eliab, the eldest, has made up his mind. He’s not going to budge, there’s no benefit of the doubt to be had, the gates of his mind are barred and padlocked. Ever been there? Me too.
I was thinking this weekend, perhaps this has something to do with why Jesus taught us how to keep peace and impressed on us its importance. Just a few paragraphs after the Beatitudes as they’re called, he tells me what to do if/when I remember someone has something against me; in other words, I have offended them. Jesus says to take the initiative. (Matt. 5.23). When someone has offended me, I’m to take the initiative. (Matt. 18. 15-19). If I obey those instructions I can’t help but be a peacemaker, can I? And peacemakers are called sons of God. (Matt. 5.9)
Paul added another thought in Titus 3.9-11. When you discover a person is angry most of the time and divisive (in Proverbs 6.19, divisiveness is the worst of the seven) steer clear. It’s not worth the risk or the heartache.
Something to think about.