Then Abner called to Joab, “Shall the sword devour forever? Do you not know that the end will be bitter? How long will it be before you tell your people to turn from the pursuit of their brothers?” And Joab said, “As God lives, if you had not spoken, surely the men would not have given up the pursuit of their brothers until the morning.” So Joab blew the trumpet, and all the men stopped and pursued Israel no more, nor did they fight anymore. 2 Sam 2:26-28

Unbridled anger is dangerous and this is perhaps no more clearly portrayed anywhere else in the Bible than in the story of Abner and Joab. With his brother’s blood freshly spilled Joab pursues his kinsman, Abner—a fellow Israelite—in order to take revenge. Whether or not his statements were merely convenient and militarily expedient, we don’t know. To be sure Abner’s losses were heavy (360 to only 19 of Joab’s men). So it was certainly in his favor to stop a battle that he himself had instigated (2 Sam 2:14). Yet, the fact remains that the three questions he asked in the height of the conflict are well worth considering in our day filled with familial, ethnic, racial, class, and generational conflict both within and without the Church: 1) Will we, either the offended or offending party, not deliberately set into motion what could very well be in the end a perpetual cycle of anger or even bloodshed? 2) Don’t we all realize that this will end “bitterly”? 3) How much longer will we—the offended party or the offending party—pursue our brothers and sisters to hurt, get even, or even destroy them? For a short time Joab listened (cf. 3:27) and catastrophe was averted.

Such is the nature of an unchecked and unsurrendered anger. Let us take heed of Abner’s decidedly wise words from midst of the battle. Let us remember that vengeance belongs to the Lord so that in the end it may be rightly said of us, “…(they) all stopped…and pursued…no more, nor did they fight anymore.”

by Craig Lester

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