Monday, June 4, 2007

To Provoke or Not to Provoke


I winced at the high-pitched scream from the back seat. Turning to face the perpetrators, I questioned my son and daughter carefully. The truth came forth easily. It was a case of mistaken provocation. We were driving along in our van on the way to our campsite in Iowa for vacation. My daughter had leaned over to get her crayons, which had dropped to the floor, and leaned into my son's pillow. My son, assuming he was being provoked, reached out his arm to shake off the annoyance. This provoked said scream from nose-bopped daughter (as well as the following discussion and this blog-post :-) ). The fact that the annoying behavior was expected shows that one child is not guiltless. Both children are responsible for their reactions and for the expectations others have of them based on past actions (parents are also responsible to train their kids up right, but that is another discussion).

After the above incident, Nathan and I were discussing the reasons that annoying and provoking one another is such a problem, given that unpleasant consequences are often directly evident. Is the demonstration of power and manipulation more important to the child than the potentially painful consequences? Does the child forget that such consequences exist, or is he just so self-centered that he can't see them? Certainly Godly parents will strive to train their children up to see the folly of such actions and to look out for the best interests of those around them. Yet provoking behavior & consequences is certainly not limited to siblings.

A particularly good example is the way women dress. If a woman chooses to wear short, tight-fitting or otherwise alluring clothing, she is likely to provoke men to lust; certainly some men more than others. She is also likely to have consequences for her provocative behavior. She may end up compromising her innocence on some level (sometimes the consequences for this come sooner, sometimes later). Or she may end up being raped or murdered, having become a target of some man who lacked restraint. The point is, if provocation occurs, consequences should be expected.

But this begs the question - is she entirely to blame? No, not entirely, but she bears more responsibility than our society would lay at her feet. Consider David and Bathsheba. Bathsheba could certainly have chosen a place to bathe which was less visible than a rooftop! Modesty here may have averted a long chain of disastrous consequences, including much bloodshed, and the death of an innocent baby. Yet here was King David, taking a stroll on his veranda, obviously idle during the times when kings go to war. (Perhaps industry is the cure for much provocation? My little ones just need more constructive activities! :-) ) Many would lay the blame for the heinous sins that followed entirely in David's lap. I believe Bathsheba bears partial blame.

Another example of provocation is a tad controversial, but still deserves attention. Many Americans believe that we were attacked on September 11th solely because we are the subject of unprovoked hatred; that Muslims hate us merely because we are free and because we are "rich". This is simply not the case. Since before I was born, we have had a military presence in Saudi Arabia, considered to be the Muslim holy land. I question, along with Congressman Ron Paul, "what would we do if they were building bases here?" Would we not be provoked by such an action? It is simply not logical to provoke someone, and not to expect consequences. I agree with Congressman Ron Paul that we have a flawed foreign policy; it is not our job to be the policeman of the world. The consequences, or "blowback" of such provocation are simply too great.

So the inevitable consequences of my ramblings brings me home to My Father's Words...

"From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members? 2Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not." James 4:1-2

"And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works..." Hebrews 10:24

"And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. 16He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. " Mark 16:15-16

"Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged." Col. 3:21

"But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth." Col. 3:8


  1. There's always two sides to every war, battle, dispute, etc.

    My question to you is: When we sin, are we to blame? Or can we put partial blame on whomever or whatever we were tempted by? If one steals a pair of jeans from the store, can he blame the clerk who displayed them so beautifully and so close to the door?

  2. I love questions!  It really makes me think about what I wrote.  :-)

    Much of my point above (I hope) is that we shouldn't assume that another is acting without cause. Usually there is responsibility to be taken on both sides. I am certainly not an advocate of the "blame" game, by any stretch of the imagination, Joanne. I believe that it is foolishness to deny our own responsibility for our actions, and the consequences which are evident.

    In your example, the clerk who displayed his shoes beautifully is not to blame for his action, for he sinned not. The thief gets full responsibility.

    However, the woman who is dressing scantily is clearly in violation of the command of 1 Timothy 2:9. And the man who lusts after her, whether he acts on that lust or not, is guilty according to the very words of Christ in Matthew 5:28. So, both have sinned before the Lord, and should take responsibility.  However, I believe that many are ignorant of such understanding and God holds us accountable for what we know.   "For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required." (Luke 12:48)  Yet the individual must still bear consequences for their actions (whatever they might be), whether they are aware of their sin or not, for "Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap."