Summary: Samson confronts the Philistines while the Israelites cower and wonder about their future. What they don’t realize is that allowing evil to continue will destroy their future.
THE PERILS OF CONFRONTING EVIL
“The only thing necessary for the triumph [of evil] is for good men to do nothing” (Edmund Burke, English Philosopher).
Confrontation is never easy. It is probably the last thing any of us really wants to do. When we see a brother or sister in Christ behaving sinfully, we might do a quick self-analysis before approaching them and then decide that we are no better. And when we see an evil committed in society our natural tendency may be to assume that someone else will address the problem.
There are those who seem to have no trouble with confrontation. If we glance at Samson in our text today we may note a few unsavory characteristics. Samson was constantly goading the Philistines into a fight. One of the reasons for this is that he didn’t give a rip what anyone thought. Unless you don’t like having friends you can go ahead and be like Samson and tell everyone off. It doesn’t look attractive does it?
Confrontation, be it the sin of a brother or the sin of a society, is necessary. Someone once said, “Life without confrontation is directionless, aimless, and passive. When unchallenged, human beings tend to drift, wander and stagnate. Confrontation is a gift, a necessary stimulation to jog one out of mediocrity or prod one back from extremes.”
In our passage today we learn that there are perils to confronting evil. There are the perils of ignoring evil and there are the perils of challenging the status quo. Knowing what we know about Jesus Christ and his worldview concerning sin, we cannot be passive about the evil in our lives. The story of Samson in this episode of his life teaches us about both sides.
1. When evil is ignored
A cycle of revenge and violence greets us as we read Judges 15. Samson goes to visit his wife but finds his wife is now given to another man, his supposed friend. Samson decides to get even by capturing 300 jackals, which are like foxes, ties torches to their tails and sets them off to burn up the livelihood of the Philistines. They in turn burn his ex-wife and her father in their own home. Samson retaliates and slaughters a good number of them, then hides in a cave.
Violence begets violence. Revenge only stirs the pot of anger and hatred. It is a tragedy when Christians in particular do this to each other for perceived wrongs. Though Samson is unorthodox in his methods, God actually uses this for his purposes. God wanted a confrontation with the Philistines. Why? Because the presence of evil was being ignored in the nation of Israel.
What happens when evil is ignored? What happens when believers who love God ignore evil? I want to propose three results to you that have disastrous consequences:
a) Believers accept the status quo – After Samson’s slaughter of Philistine citizens, the Philistines paid a visit to the tribe of Judah. The Philistines wanted Samson but they were ready to go to war with all of Judah to satisfy their vengeance.
In response, no less than 3000 men of Judah found Samson and questioned him, “Don’t you realize that the Philistines are rulers over us? What have you done to us?” (v. 11). Confrontation is so much easier when you go in a group, isn’t it? We feel validated when we have a crowd on our side. It took the men of Judah a crowd of 3000 to feel bold enough to confront Samson.
But notice the problem here: Judah has accepted the fact that the Philistines rule over them. They don’t want any trouble. In fact, they accuse Samson of being a troublemaker. If these people had recognized what God was doing in their midst they would have supported God’s man. It is possible that their numbers matched that of the Philistine army. All they needed to do was beg Samson to lead them into battle and trust in the Lord’s help and plan. Instead they decided to hand over Samson to the Philistines who wanted to kill him.
That is the danger of the status quo. Things are fine the way they are – don’t rock the boat. It’s not perfect but when is it ever perfect? Judah had compromised with evil so far that they didn’t even recognize it anymore.
Another sad fact of accepting the status quo is that those who compromise have no use for the committed. And when Christians who are committed to growing and maturing in Christ find themselves thwarted by other Christians who have become accustomed to a wishy-washy spiritual life, it is a sad, sad thing.
b) Believers are no threat – Another result of ignoring evil or compromising with it is that believers become a non-issue with the enemy. You are not a threat.