Be Disturbed Enough to Change

Message:  Judges 18 tells one of the most disturbing stories I know of in the bible. Every time I read it I feel sick and I pray for understanding because it’s not one of those stories you can explain away by mentioning the culture. A Levite man “acquires” a concubine. A concubine is a lower-status wife and already we can see that a concubine was more like sex property than she was a companion. The concubine had left her master and run back home to her father’s house so he went to “speak kindly to her” in the hopes of bringing her back home with him. On the journey back they went 6 miles out of their way to stop in a town of Israelites because the man thought it would be safer than stopping in a foreign land. When they got to a town of Israelites, they didn’t find any hospitality until the end of the evening when an old man found them and was eager to take them in and get them to safety in his home. It seems he knew there was danger out in the city. Later in the evening some men came banging on the door demanding that the old man send out the Levite man so they could have sex with him. This was considered so horrific that instead, the old man offered them his virgin daughter and the Levite man’s concubine. In order to protect his male guest, he sent his female concubine out the door to allow these men to do whatever they wanted to her. They raped her and abused her all night and she eventually found her way back to the door and the Levite man found her unresponsive body in the morning. The Levite man got up from his peaceful night’s sleep and carried her abused, unresponsive body to his donkey. He took her body home, chopped it up into 12 pieces like an animal slaughter and sent a piece to each tribe. This was intended to get the attention of Israel to show how evil the men of the tribe of Benjamin had become. As harsh as some of the biblically cultural things are, the bible makes it very clear that this was not normal. This was not only unusual, but it was disturbing enough to them to get their attention and call for action.  As I read it once again today, it occurred to me today that this story was intended to be disturbing so we could sit in the uncomfortable and begin to ask questions. WHY is this story in the bible?? The first thing I thought of is that the Levite man avoided a foreign town and thought an Israelite town would be safer. Usually the stories about Israel represent the church or even ourselves individually so I saw this as a parallel to the evil that lurks in the church today. Statistics show that there is just as much sexual perversion and addiction in the church as there is out in the world. The people we would expect to be safe are often the most dangerous. In the story the old man fought against the perversion of the townspeople taking his male guest for sex, and instead he offered his virgin (young innocent) daughter and the man’s concubine for them to satisfy their sexual appetite. Sexual perversion dehumanizes women and takes young girls as victims of sex trafficking. We don’t talk openly about this in most churches, yet the church at large uses it’s voice the loudest about standing against homosexuality. This parallel is astounding to me and it certainly got my attention. The next chapter shows how they punished the tribe of Benjamin and later made attempts to restore it. This story is also very similar to another story back in Genesis  when the angels stayed overnight with Lot before they destroyed Sodom & Gomorrah. I believe this was intentional as well to show that the level of evil equated with Sodom & Gomorrah. This is not a story that glorifies the traumatic and horrific abuse of women. This is a story that demands our attention to the sin in the church that needs to be exposed. We all have a part to play in this because we are all aware and have been enablers to it by allowing it to remain hidden. In the New Testament, Paul called out one of the churches for allowing a man who was openly having a relationship with his father’s wife to remain part of the church. They were proud of their acceptance and Paul demanded that they send him out so there would be hope for repentance and change. I don’t know what the answers are, but this story has drastically changed my perspective and I feel challenged to pray for the church as a whole and ask God to show us how to stand up, expose sin and rebuild the people who have been damaged by it whether they were a victim or a perpetrator. This is not an easy read but this is real and we have to be willing to fight for change and freedom.

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