Is it ever right to taunt your abuser? Is it Godly?
[WARNING: This is a thought experiment…not a recommendation!]
My wife is working on some presentations she’ll be making on the book of Habakkuk and so we have been looking at the book and talking about some of the difficulties in the text (She’s far more insightful on these things than I am!). The 2nd chapter contains a taunt against the oppressor/abuser Babylon. God is having a conversation with Habakkuk and the short version goes like this:
Habakkuk: Why are you allowing all this sin among your people? Do something!
God: I will. I’m sending Babylon and they will carry Judah off.
Habakkuk: Um…God…Babylon? Really? You do know they are like the most heathen people? You’re going to use the worst group of people in the world to judge us? You know we’re not THAT bad?
God: Yup. I’m going to do something that blows you away. I’m up to something you can’t even imagine. I know that Babylon is proud. And here are the taunts you and everyone else is going to throw at them when I judge them.
At this point God appears to give them words to use when the time comes. Consider 2:15-16
Woe to him who gives drink to his neighbors, pouring it from the wineskin till they are drunk, so that he can gaze on their naked bodies. You will be filled with shame instead of glory. Now it is your turn! Drink and be exposed. The cup from the Lord’s right hand is coming around to you, and disgrace will cover your glory.
It would appear that God has no problem taunting humans in their rebellion and depravity. When God taunts, he is speaking truth. When we speak truth, along with God, about unrighteousness then maybe such a taunt is a possibility:
You’ve abused me but just you wait. God is in heaven above. He sees and he will judge. You will face the consequences of what you have done, either in this life or at the last day. There will be justice!
Just an Old Testament thing?
Are taunts only in the OT? Does Jesus do away with them when he tells us to love our enemies? Apparently loving one’s enemies does not mean not speaking a taunt. Notice that Luke records Jesus making ten different “woe to you” taunts against religious leaders and other unbelieving/arrogant people. Can Jesus be failing the second greatest commandment?
Clearly the taunts in the OT or Jesus’ curses of unbelieving religious leaders are not normative. We are not called to do this. But…maybe their existence does a couple of things for us.
- Give Godly words for the private and possibly public comments made by victims of abuse (note: these words do not approve of revenge, bitterness, or other ungodly motivations. But desire for justice is a good and Godly desire and should be expressed!)
- Allow others to validate victims’ experience of injustice without pressing for a quick Romans 8:28 response
A word of caution
Habakkuk 2 ends with a postscript to the 5 taunt songs against Babylon.
But the Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him
Judah was guilty of injustice (1:3). They did not have clean hands. They were not innocent. God did give them words of taunt to use against Babylon. Yet, before God they needed to be silent and humble. The cup of wrath that Babylon would drink is passed over God’s people–not because of their innocence but because of God’s providential love. Christ drinks to the dregs that cup of wrath in our stead. He gives us a better cup to drink. It is far too easy to consider ourselves innocent and our enemies guilty. We ought to stand in silence and awe because we have not been treated as we rightly deserve.