Friday, December 10, 2010

Due Diligence (in Bible Study)

Due Diligence
© 2010, by Wesley G. Vaughn
Be diligent to present yourself approved to God
as a workman who does not need to be ashamed,
accurately handling the word of truth.
~ 2 Timothy 2:15 (NASB)

. Fred Bower closed the side door behind him and stepped into the kitchen. The clicking sounds of the game console drew him to the family room, where Jerry was playing video basketball. Fred watched for several minutes. His son was good at this game. Hours of practice had honed his natural abilities. At a “time out,” Fred said, “Hi, Son.”
Jerry turned, “Hi, Dad.”
“How was school today?”
“Okay, I guess.”
Something in Jerry’s manner told Fred that not all was okay. “You don’t sound really sure. What happened today?”
“Nothing happened, Dad. I just don’t understand Mr. Edwards.”
“Tell me about it.”
“At the end of History class, Mr. Edwards said, ‘You should all approach your studies with due diligence so you won’t be embarrassed after Exam Week.’” Jerry imitated the teacher’s voice almost perfectly. “What does he mean by that?”
“Let’s see.” Fred’s mind raced for a way to explain this in a way relevant to Jerry. “First, what does ‘due’ mean?”
“It means time to pay up.”
“Like what?”
“Like a bill. When it’s due is when you pay it.”
“Very good, Son! You’re right on track. Something is due when it is owed, required, or called for.”
“So diligence is called for. What is ‘diligence’?”
“What do you think it means?”
“I don’t think it means ‘dallying around,’ so it must mean something else.”
“Like what?”
“Like studying, I suppose.”
“Again, you’re on track. ‘Diligence’ means hard work, sticking to a job, doing a thing ‘studiously,’ paying attention to detail.”
“This sounds kind of familiar.”
“How about 2 Timothy 2:15. Didn’t you memorize it at Bible Roundup?”
“Oh, yes! ‘Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.’”
“That’s from the New American Standard, isn’t it?”
“It is.”
Fred realized he’d been standing all this time. He pulled up a chair and sat down.
“This verse is more familiar to most of us from the King James Version: ‘Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.’ The word translated ‘Study’ in the King James is also translated as ‘Do your best’ and ‘Work hard’ and ‘Be diligent.’ And ‘rightly dividing’ is also translated as ‘accurately (or correctly) handling (or teaching).’”
Jerry’s face lit up. “Oh, now I see! Mr. Edwards meant that if we study hard and pay attention to detail, we won’t be embarrassed or ashamed after the exams, because we’ll pass.”
. “Son, I see how good you are at Video Basketball. You have practiced and paid attention to what you’re doing, and it has paid off. It should work when you approach your studies the same way.”
“Okay, Dad. Mom has dinner ready. After that, I have some studying to do.”


In our text, it is obvious that the Apostle Paul expected Timothy to show due diligence, to work hard, to pay attention to detail. This was not just to please Paul, who was Timothy’s mentor. Timothy really worked for God, so he needed God’s approval of his work. This is not a new idea. All the Apostles saw themselves as God’s employees, servants (slaves) of Jesus Christ. Just look at how Paul, Peter, James and Jude identified themselves in their letters. And not only themselves, but those who worked with them and followed them were God’s servants.
. So how do we study to pass God’s test? To meet His approval? There are parallels between studying History and studying the Bible.

Read the Text
. To study History, Jerry first needs to read his textbook. Some parts he may have to read twice.
For us Christians, the Bible is our textbook. Paul said it is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.” (2 Tim. 3:16, NIV). Like Jerry’s History text, it needs to be read more than once. Not just part, but all. Not just twice, but repeatedly, over and over again.

2. Take Notes
. While in class and while reading the text, Jerry takes notes – even if only page numbers – of things he needs to remember. Later, he can go over his notes to review and reinforce his knowledge and understanding of the subject. His notes also include his own observations and thoughts.
Likewise, when we read our Bibles, it is helpful to take notes, underline sentences, highlight words or, with today’s technology, talk into a hand-held digital recorder. Just taking notes helps us remember more. And the highlighting and underlining point out areas needing further study. The recorder will work in situations where writing is not practical.

3. Connect the Dots
When Jerry was in the primary grades, he completed dot-to-dot pictures. By drawing lines from one numbered dot to the next, a seemingly random pattern became a meaningful picture. . Now in his History class in high school, he “connects the dots” in another way. Events, persons and places are linked in chains and webs. Jerry begins to see how they are related to each other, whether cause-and-effect, common cause, co-contributors, antagonists, or in some other way. Then a bigger picture begins to emerge. The smaller stories are parts of a larger story.
. So it should be when we study the Bible. We need to “connect the dots,” to see the larger picture. After all, the Bible is the history of the world from the very beginning. It is His Story, God’s account of His work in His creation. Everything else is just a part of the grand, all-encompassing picture.
There are ways to help see the whole picture. One way is to read through the narrative portions of the Bible consecutively, noting how one thing follows another. For instance, in Genesis we see the story move from the creation of the universe to the creation of people. Then the first man and woman disobey God, and things turn from good to bad, even for the land, the plants and the animals. After this, one of their sons, Cain, murders his brother, Abel. Even though Adam and Eve have many children, it is the descendants of Cain and Seth, the next son born after Abel is killed, who are followed. Then the story narrows to Noah, a descendant of Seth.
Things get so bad that God wipes out everyone with a flood. Everyone, that is, except eight people, Noah and his wife with their three sons and the sons’ wives. So humanity starts over.
. The world is repopulated, but the story again narrows, this time to a man named Abram/Abraham, to his second son Isaac, then to Isaac’s second son Jacob. At the end of the book, Jacob’s family is in Egypt. Just in this, the first book of the Bible, we see a pattern. Through the entire story, a thread is followed, one line of descendants.

The story continues in the following books. Here we see the other threads intersecting with the main thread, which is narrowed again to one person, David. When we get to the New Testament, the focus is on one man, Jesus of Nazareth, a descendant of David. If we only hopscotch around, a story here and a story there, it is hard to see how they fit together.
Another way to connect the dots is to note references to other events, persons or places.
. Seeing how the pieces fit together helps us to understand the whole story, whether in a History class or studying the Bible.

4. Understand the Context
. When studying History, every person and event fits within cultural, historical and geographical contexts. Understanding the interactions of kings, dukes, knights, and peasants requires some knowledge of feudal society. Likewise, every person and event should be understood within its societal context. And don’t ignore the role of religion and philosophy in shaping society and influencing history. Even geography and climate play roles.
The same is true when studying the Bible. Many things are better understood in context. There are actually several contexts to consider:

a. Textual Contexts
Each passage and verse of Scripture needs to be considered within its textual contexts, that is within the context of what else is written in the Bible. Peter wrote “that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation” (2 Pet. 1:20, KJV). Now the word translated “private” can be interpreted more than one way, each related to the others. Literally this means “of one’s own.” So it could mean “of the reader’s” or “of the prophecy’s own interpretation.” Which way is right? I say both. First the Bible passages should not be made to mean whatever we want them to mean. Peter mentions those of his time who twisted and misused Paul’s letters as well as the Old Testament.
Let’s look at the local context of this verse. Peter had just said that the prophecies of the Old Testament were validated before his very eyes when he witnessed Jesus’ transfiguration and when he met the risen Christ. Then the following verse (v. 21) states that the Old Testament prophets were moved by the Holy Spirit to speak and write. What this means is that the Scriptures mean what God means them to mean, not what we want them to mean.
In History, every event needs to be studied within its local, regional, national and international contexts. So too, each Bible passage should be interpreted within the contexts of the adjoining verses and chapters, the book (including the author’s purpose), that section of the Bible, and Scripture as a whole. (An entire book could be written just on this subject.)

b. Non-textual Contexts
Besides the contexts within the Bible itself, we also should consider historical, geographical, cultural, and linguistic contexts.

5. Use Resources
. Mr. Edwards passed out two lists to the class, “Required Reading” and “Recommended Reading.” He also referred them to the reference section of the school library. Other resources besides the textbook were to be used.
When we study the Bible, valuable resources are available, such as concordances, Bible dictionaries, lexicons, word studies, commentaries, atlases, time lines, and notes in study Bibles. Let’s not forget studies of individual books and sections of the Bible and of biblical characters. It really pays to have these on hand and to know how to use them.
. In using these resources, we should not forget that the Bible is the primary authority, and these other works are only study aids, tools.

a. Concordances
. A concordance is an index, a list of words and where they appear in the Bible. It is usually keyed to one specific translation, such as the King James Version, New American Standard Bible, New International Version, or some other. The most useful concordances for most people are Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance and Young’s Analytical Concordance. Strong’s lists all the instances of a word in order of its appearance in the translation (such as the KJV) with numbers keyed to the original Hebrew and Greek words. However, Young’s lists the occurrences of the word first by the original language word, which it spells out, then by its location in the Bible.

b. Other Translations
Whichever translation you use, it helps to compare the text you’re studying with another version. If there is a significant difference in a word or phrasing, especially one which affects the meaning, that is a call to find out what it really means. This is especially true if your primary version is the King James, because several key English words in it have shifted in meaning over the past 400 years.

c. Bible Dictionaries, Encyclopedias and Handbooks
A Bible dictionary or encyclopedia lists people, places, events, objects, and themes in the Bible alphabetically with explanations. The difference between the dictionary and the encyclopedia is mostly one of size. One popular work is Unger’s Bible Dictionary. Similar but more compact is Halley’s Bible Handbook.

d. Word Studies and Lexicons
A word study examines the meanings of selected words in depth as to origin, shades of
meaning, etc.
A lexicon translates the words of one language into another language. Here we are considering those which translate Hebrew and Greek into English. Both Strong’s and Young’s concordances have lexicons in the back. In these, the Hebrew and Greek words are transliterated, that is written out in our alphabet. This really helps those who are not familiar with the original languages.

e. Commentaries
In a commentary, a portion of text is written out. This is followed by the commentator’s notes. Early commentaries were primarily the products of the author’s own studies and observations. Later commentator’s usually refer to earlier ones while coming to their own conclusions.
Commentaries can be useful, but with caution. It is better to first wrestle with the Bible texts ourselves. Then the commentaries can be an aid to work out a difficult passage. They can also be a check on us, lest we move too far afield. Part of what Peter meant in 2 Peter 1:20 is that we should not interpret Scripture in isolation from everyone else. Consider the use of a commentary as a conversation with someone who is not physically present.
Commentaries vary widely in viewpoint and value. Using more than one helps us to keep our balance and perspective.

f. Visual Aids: Atlases, Illustrations, Charts, Time Lines
“Oh wow!” Jerry exclaimed, “I didn’t know they were that close!”
. “What’s close?” Fred looked over his son’s shoulder at the map in the history textbook. Jerry’s finger was by Richmond, Virginia.
“D.C. and Richmond. The two capitals. I didn’t realize how close they were until I looked at this map.”
Maps are one example of visual aids. Some other visual aids are illustrations, charts and time lines. In Bible study, they help us visualize biblical settings, such as geography, contemporary events, clothing, etc.
An atlas is a collection of maps. Most Bibles have maps in the back, but much more can be learned from a full Bible atlas, which has many more maps and much more detail, and may also have explanatory text.
Illustrations of Bible stories, tools, pottery, buildings, animals and people, among other things, can help us understand biblical texts if they are fairly accurate, based on sound research. Charts and outlines organize biblical facts and help us understand how they fit together.
A time line is a chart which shows when events took place and when certain people lived. It can help us understand how biblical events fit into regional and world history.

g. Study Bible Notes
If you have a study Bible, the notes help in understanding the text. Also, most study Bibles have introductions to the books and major sections of the Bible. The introductions to the books discuss issues such as date, authorship, setting and purpose of the book. They also usually have outlines of each book.

h. Topical Studies
There are many good books written on biblical topics: people, places, events, themes. It helps to augment your Bible studies with a good character study, for instance.

i. Other Resources
“Hey Dad! Look at all these neat pictures of how they made things before the Civil War.”
Fred came and looked at the open book on the kitchen table. “Interesting! What book is that?”
Growth of American Industry, 1800-1816. It’s on the Recommended Reading List. It shows how they did all kinds of things, from building roads to making sewing pins.”
. There may be other resources which are not specifically mentioned here. One kind is articles and books about life in Bible times. For instance, Alfred Edersheim wrote several books, such as Sketches of Jewish Social Life in the Days of Christ, which are still used by many Bible students.
Many resources are available through the Internet, some free and some by subscription. We do need to be careful with the Internet, however. Not all sources of information are of equal value. Search for a Bible person or place, and you will find fact mixed with legend and folklore as well as modern speculations. On the other hand, many out-of-print old books, formerly unavailable to most of us, have now been digitized and published on the web.

6. Conversation - Discuss the subject with others
Jerry talks about History with some of the other students in the class. The day after the talk with Dad, Jerry’s friend Tom mentioned something Jerry had missed. Jerry checked it out, and sure enough, Tom was right.
“Iron sharpens iron; So one man sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17 NASB). Discussion is one way of honing each other in God’s Word. In discussing what we have been studying in the Bible (especially what we are both studying), we share our insights. This not only deepens our understanding of Scripture, it also guards against error. When studying in isolation, it is easy to become unbalanced in our viewpoint. Through discussion we hold each other accountable.
We also have a tendency to overlook things. This is understandable when one aspect of a passage captures our attention. Like Tom, my friend or colleague may see something I have completely missed. Yes, this has happened to me. So when I have the opportunity to discuss a Bible subject I’m studying, I take it.


Fred Bower was latching the side door when Jerry ran into the kitchen.
“Hey, Dad! I got an ‘A’!”
“Good for you, Son! The ‘due diligence’ paid off, didn’t it?”
“It sure did! Thanks for helping me understand what Mr. Edwards said.”
“You’re welcome. How did the others do?”
“Mr. Edwards said everyone did better than he expected.”
“Oh? Really? Did everyone understand what he had said?”
“Not at first, Dad, but I talked with some on what we talked about, and they talked with others. So, I guess you really helped the whole class.”
“Thank you, Son. I’m really glad it helped.” He had his hand on Jerry’s shoulder. “The way Mr. Edwards said it was a little hard to understand, but if it made you think, then that was good.”
“Then I’m glad he said it that way. It made me ask.”
. “I see. It’s like that when studying the Bible, too. We often get more out of the things that make us stop and think. And in the end, ‘due diligence’ really pays.”

Monday, July 26, 2010

States Trivia

Here are ten trivia questions about the states.

1. For a generation, the United States flew a 48-star flag. Then in 1959 and 1960 Alaska and Hawaii became states. Which two states are the 47th and 48th (the order is extra)?
2. Which state was an independent republic before being annexed to the USA?
3. Which state was a kingdom before being annexed to the USA?
4. Before Alaska became a state, which state was the westernmost?
5. Before Alaska became a state, which state was the northernmost?
6. Before Hawaii became a state, which state was the southernmost?
7. Before Alaska became a state, which state was the largest?
8. Are the highest and lowest points in the adjoining 48 states in different states?
9. Which state has the longest coastline?
10. How many states have four-letter names? Name them.


1. New Mexico then Arizona
2. Texas
3. Hawaii
4. Washington
5. Minnesota
6. Florida
7. Texas
8. No. They are Mt. Whitney and Death Valley, both in California
9. Alaska
10. Three - Ohio, Iowa, Utah

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

A Date to Remember

This is a fictional account. Any resemblance to actual events or persons is strictly coincidental.

Janet remembers her first date with a young man called Barry. He was charming, though a little bashful and awkward at times. She had just arrived in town to enroll in college. He was beginning his second year.

Janet met Barry at a popular pizza parlor near the campus. Looking for a place to sit, she spotted the empty seat at a small table. On the other side sat a young man with a serious expression reading a thick book.

"May I take this seat?"

The man looked up. A smile broke out, spreading across his face. "Why, sure! It's my pleasure." He rose, stepped around the table and pulled out the chair. "Here."

Janet set her food on the table and sat down. "Thank you. Thanks a whole bunch!"

He returned to his seat, secured a bookmark and closed the volume.

"You're new here, aren't you?"

"Yes, I am. I will finish registration today."

"Are you a freshman?"

"Yup. This is all new to me. I'm from Yreka, up north near Shasta."

"Welcome to the metropolis. This place was new to me last year."

"By the way, who are you?"

"Pardon me for not introducing myself. I'm Barry."

"I'm Janet." She took a bite of her meal. When she had swallowed, she dabbed her mouth with the napkin.

Barry, who had reopened the book, rested his hand on the page, then asked, "What's your major?"

"Sociology and Psychology. I want to be a social worker. What do you study?"

"Political Science and Government. I'm planning on going to law school."

"To be a lawyer?"

"To start with, yes. One can go a long way from there."

"Hah! My dad said, 'If you want to go a long ways, become a lawyer. It'll take you all the way to Hell.' Have you ever heard that?"

"I think I have. I've also heard that about other professions and businesses, such as used car salesmen."

"Me, too. It really depends more on the person."

"I'd better let you finish your meal before it gets stale."

"Thanks." Janet resumed eating, while Barry resumed reading.

Just as Janet was picking up the food tray, Barry looked up. "What are you doing when you finish registration?"

"I don't know. I don't really know anyone here, and I don't know this town."

"Would you like a guided tour?"

"That sounds great! When does it start? Does Gray Lines operate that late?"

"They do have evening tours during the tourist season, like summer and Christmas week. I was thinking of something in a sports car, not a bus."

"Are you a tour guide?"

"I know this area well enough to be one. I can put on cabbie cap if you like."

"I'm on. Where does the tour start and when?"

"When does registration end?"

"I should be done about 3:30. But I have to get back to the dorm and file my papers."

"When can you get back to here?"

"About quarter-to-five."

"See you then."


At 4:45 Janet saw Barry standing by the door as she walked down the street toward the pizza parlor. A lightweight sweater was draped over one arm, ready to ward off an evening chill. She lightly brushed her hair with her hand to corral any stray strands.

Barry was looking up the walk the other direction. Janet was only two doors away when he turned and spied her. He waited to speak until she was only ten feet away. "On-the-dot! You have a very good sense of time."

"I honed that skill with summer jobs in high school. It really helps when you have to keep track of several things all at once."

"It helps in college, too. Are you ready?"

"Yes, I am" She hand-brushed her hair again. "Where's the tour car?"

"Around the corner, in the parking lot. The top's down to improve the view." He flipped out a duster cap and pulled it onto his head. His hair was just bushy enough to hold it firmly.

"How's this?"


Barry drove south to York Boulevard and turned west, then headed north onto a freeway, talking all the time like a tour guide: "The first thing to learn in this city is the freeway system. It is a network which ties the whole metropolis together. This is the Glendale Freeway, which goes from I-5 to the Foothills Freeway."

They followed a ramp to the right. "Now we're on the Ventura Freeway, which will take us to Pasadena, home of Cal Tech and the Rose Bowl." In Pasadena, Barry exited the freeway and showed Janet the local icons.

From Pasadena, Barry took the Ventura Freeway to the Hollywood Freeway, pointing out all the well-known places as they went by. They exited in Hollywood, then followed Santa Monica Boulevard through Beverly Hills to the San Diego Freeway. From there, Barry drove south to the Santa Monica Freeway and headed east to the Harbor Freeway, north to the Hollywood Freeway, and south to the N. Broadway exit.

On North Broadway, they went north. "Here is something you definitely don't see in Yreka. Now this is mostly Chinese, but not all. It is more or less international, but it is still called 'Chinatown.' Different, isn't it." To Janet this was like visiting a foreign country, all the quaint Oriental stores and signs. Being in a convertible, they could hear non-English, sing-song conversation.

"Are you hungry?"

"A little."

"Let's find a good place to eat."

"You know the area. What's good?"

Barry pulled to the curb in front of door with a marquee reading "Mai-Chu Sing" above a string of Chinese characters. "This is what I like."

The food was good, but not exactly exotic. Janet, with her family and friends, had frequented Chinese restaurants in Yreka. After the meal, she said, "I'm feeling global. For dessert, can we try another nationality?"

"Sure. I know of an interesting place. How does Manchurian sound?"

"Now that's different! I'm game."

"Now this place is not exactly in Chinatown, but it's close."
South and east about a half mile a sign hung over the sidewalk: "The Yak Shack."

"What a name!"

"I know it sounds almost American, but it is genuinely Manchurian. They have confections found nowhere else in the world except in Manchuria --- and places like this, of course. There is a candy I especially like. The flavor is (how shall I say it?) over there."

Barry was right. The confections were deliciously exotic, the best she'd ever had. This was the defining memory she would carry of this day. For the rest of her life, she would remember it as "the Manchurian Candy Date."

© 2010, Wesley G. Vaughn

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Watch the Porcupine (Look Past the Quills)

My niece has been digitizing 8 mm movies my dad took decades ago. I have several of them on DVDs from her. Most of these are in color, but some are in black & white. There are quite a few interesting scenes. The earliest films were shot while Dad was in the U.S. Army Signal Corps in Alaska. Sometimes someone else took the camera and Dad ended up in the picture.

When Dad first went to the "Last Frontier" in 1940, he worked on building communications facilities connected by land lines, undersea cables and radio. These were in a variety of settings, from windswept tundra to coastal rainforests. The movies show fellow soldiers at work and at play. They also show landscapes, weather and animals.

Several wild animals became camp pets. The most intriguing I found were porcupines. At least two of these prickly rodents made themselves at home among the servicemen. They were being fed by hand, rubbing against a soldier’s leg and being held. One even crawled up Dad’s arm to nuzzle his neck.

This is not what we expect from a creature with a "touch me not" reputation. We think of these pine pigs (that’s what "porcupine" means) with their quills erect, bristling against anyone and anything. But these "walking pincushions" had their quills laid back, giving them a somewhat sleek, non-threatening appearance. They obviously appreciated warmth, affection and companionship.

Sometimes people seem to be porcupines. It may be a stranger or someone we know. It may be at work or at school, in a store or on the street, in church or at home. Sometime, somewhere, we encounter a "porcupine," someone who bristles, quills spread out like a pincushion. The message is, "Touch me not."

People usually bristle for the same reasons as porcupines: fear, hurt, anger, territory. When threatened, sharp quills deter attackers. When hurt and angry, barbed quills punish perpetrators. When intruders appear, erect quills protect perimeters. For both humans and animals, attacks and threats can be real or imagined. Either kind elicits the same bristling response. Yet within there are non-bristly desires.

So how did porcupines become camp pets, friends of a bunch of soldier technicians stringing wires in the wilderness? They responded to kindness. These spiny rodents came looking for food, and the soldiers fed them. When they were not chased off nor threatened, the pine pigs began to trust these two-legged strangers who had invaded their habitat. Eventually they accepted, responded to and returned affection. That is how many wild animals have been tamed. Kindness drew them in. On our part, there is something inside us which wants to return to Eden, where all of God’s creatures lived in harmony.

How then shall we deal with the prickly people in our lives? How do we tame the human porcupines? Let’s see what the Bible says.


But the LORD said to Samuel, "Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart." (1 Samuel 16:7) *1

First we must see our porcupine people as God sees them. God told Samuel that He "looks on the heart." He sees what a person is inside, regardless of outward appearances, just as Jesus did:
"When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd." (Matthew 9:36) People may be grasping, greedy, hateful, fearful, ignorant, defensive, etc., but Jesus saw them as hungry, sick, neglected, and misled, as Dotty Rambo wrote, "He looked beyond my fault and saw my need."*2 So too, we must look beyond the quills to see porcupine people as God sees them, hurting, hungry, threatened, needy.


A soft answer turns away wrath,but a harsh word stirs up anger.(Proverbs 15:1)

When we encounter bristles, it is natural to be bristly in return. But Solomon says that leads to more trouble. When we are defensive in return, it justifies the other person’s defensiveness. To be honest, most of us know this from experience. Solomon’s advice is to answer softly, to defuse anger, to disarm defensiveness. And Moses said, "You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD." (Leviticus 19:18) Similar advice is found in the New Testament:

Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. (Romans 12:17-18)
Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. (1 Peter 3:9)

"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God." (Matthew 5:9)
"You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' But I say to you,

Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also." (Matthew 5:38-39)


An oft-quoted saying is "Hurt people hurt people." Porcupine people usually hurt us because they have been hurt. When we hurt them back, the cycle of hurt continues. God’s key to breaking this cycle is forgiveness. We can forgive with God’s forgiveness as our example. In fact, Jesus connected our forgiveness of others to our forgiveness from God (Matthew 6:12,14-15; Mark 11:25; Luke 11:4). Jesus Himself set the example on the cross, when He prayed, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." (Luke 23:34)

It is a fact of life that, intentionally or not, we will be hurt and will hurt others, so mutual forgiveness is to be a way of life among Christians:

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. (Ephesians 4:32)

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. (Colossians 3:12-13 )


Just as the soldiers won over the porcupines by feeding them, we can try to win over the difficult, defensive person with acts of kindness. This speaks to him or her at the point of need. The Bible applies this to even our outright enemies.

If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat,and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink.(Proverbs 25:21)

"If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head." (Romans 12:20)

"But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you." (Luke 6:27)
For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, ..." (Romans 5:10a)

There is also an example in how the prophet Elisha urged King Jehoram of Israel to deal with enemy soldiers miraculously delivered to him:

[Elisha] answered, "You shall not strike them down. Would you strike down those whom you have taken captive with your sword and with your bow? Set bread and water before them, that they may eat and drink and go to their master." So [the king] prepared for them a great feast, and when they had eaten and drunk, he sent them away, and they went to their master. And the Syrians did not come again on raids into the land of Israel. (2 Kings 6:22-23)


Another tool for dealing with porcupines along our way is prayer. For one thing, if we pray for someone, it affects how we think of that person. Also, God can do to and through someone what we could never do on our own.

"You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. (Matthew 5:43-45)

Again, Jesus set the example with His prayer from the cross (Luke 23:34), as did Stephen when he was being stoned to death (Acts 7:60).

The hardest Porcupines to deal with are the ones we encounter in the mirror. We find it so hard to tame ourselves. We may not see ourselves as porcupines, but when we bristle others do.

Thank God we have help. Paul says that the Holy Spirit in our lives brings self control (Galatians 5:23). He also said, "I can do all things through him who strengthens me." (Philippians 4:13) It is easier for me to understand a porcupine when I remember that I myself am also one.

Wesley G. Vaughn,
© 2010