You should not march through the gates of my people in the day of their disaster, nor gloat over them in their calamity in the day of their disaster, nor seize their wealth in the day of their disaster. Obadiah 13 (NIV).
Continuing on the theme of verse 12 – you shouldn’t gloat over your defeated opponent – there is yesterday in football. I like football. Sometimes, it’s a microcosm of life. The NFC game between the Packers and Buccaneers was a nail-biter. Evenly matched teams; evenly matched defense; team leaders familiar with the cold; team leaders with, between them, nearly 3 decades of experience, including winning Super Bowls.
In the first game, there were very few penalties for unsportsmanlike conduct. It was a championship game, so woe to the player who got too big for his britches when the stakes are so high. And, at the end of the game, even though the traveling team beat the favored home team, the victorious Buccaneers didn’t gloat about it. They celebrated, and that’s appropriate. Indeed, for the conference champions, the NFL always has a field celebration at the end of the game. But there wasn’t any gloating or grandstanding or dancing on the defeat of the opponent.
In the second game, however, especially in the last quarter, there was plenty of poor conduct; lots of penalties; unsportsmanlike careless stupidity. Yet, when it was all over, the victorious Chiefs didn’t dance on the grave of the defeated. Raw nerves hurt, but character can salve that pain.
Indeed, that’s what God decrees for us. We can celebrate victory, and we should. Hard-won battles are worth remembering, especially to give God the glory in the victory. Yet the Lord tells us to stop the victory dance there.
Think Grant at Appomattox. General Grant could have humiliated the Army of Northern Virginia. Instead, he sought healing and mercy for a brave enemy. Think November 11th on the Western Front, where men came out of their trenches to cordially meet their enemies in no-man’s land. Think Europe after World War II, where Secretary (and General) Marshall convinced the American government to rebuild vanquished Germany lest it fall into the hands of communists bent on more evil.
Think of Obadiah’s words.
God commands us to oppose His enemies, to fight on His side, to surrender ourselves to Him so that He might wage justice through us. Yet, when the battle is won, instead of the old ways of humiliating those we defeat, we are to offer them restoration into the family of man. It is true in faith. It is true in family and friendship. It’s true at church and in politics (or should be), and it is true in war.
By the way, Go Bucs!
For further reading: Ezekiel 35:5, Obadiah 14
Lord, teach me today to have mercy on my foes, to forgive generously and model Your justice.
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