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Boehner’s Revenge

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Several years ago, there was a laundry in a small American town that had a monopoly on its type of trade. However, two very enterprising Chinese men opened their own laundry business across the street. Because their work was well-done, the prices kept low, and the promptness of their service high, a large measure of their business started going to thrifty housewives.

To meet the competition, the original laundry resorted to putting up a sign that read: “100 percent American. We hate Orientals, Negroes, Jews, and foreigners.” Unfortunately, the Chinese lost out.

Not to be entirely beaten, however, the two Chinese men devised a counter measure by painting a much larger sign that read: “200 percent American. We hate everybody.” [1]

Certainly most would agree that revenge or retaliation, even when perceptibly justifiable, is not a treasured American value. Nevertheless, you wouldn’t know that by John Boehner’s response to the congressmen who voted against him as Speaker.

Shortly after Boehner suffered the most significant challenge as Speaker since the Civil War, Representatives Daniel Webster (R-Fla.) and Richard Nugent (R-Fla.) were kicked-off the powerful House Rules Committee where they previously served. Rep. Randy Weber (R-TX.), who had backed fellow Texan, Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX.) for Speaker, was blocked from sponsoring an important energy bill.

Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.) felt the sting of Boehner’s wrath when he voted against the Speaker in 2012. “I am already hearing from my colleagues,” said Huelskamp, “about retaliation against those who voted their conscience, their constituents, their principles, to change the status quo. My colleagues fully expect that. That’s what they expect out of this leadership team.” [2]

Payback seems to be headed for the twenty other House members who voted against the Speaker too, including North Carolina’s Representatives Walter Jones (R) and Mark Meadows (R).

Some might contend forms of retaliation are a necessary evil in the political world. It can be necessary to maintaining cohesion and order in the halls of power, they’ll say. Nonsense! I’ve been a registered lobbyist in the North Carolina General Assembly for fifteen years. I’ve seen people in authority wield their power in such irresponsible ways over and again. It never does anything except further engender ill-will and exacerbate the problems of disunity.

The teachings of Jesus resolutely condemn personal malevolence and retaliation. Instead of seeking revenge, the Scriptures urge relying on God’s judgment. Romans 12:19 reads, “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves but, rather, give place unto wrath; for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.” Watching what happened to Jesus during his passion, Peter wrote of him, “Who when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered he threatened not, but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously” (I Peter 2:23).

Boehner would do well to not only learn from Jesus, but from the icon of his own party – Abraham Lincoln.

Seemingly countless are the stories of Lincoln’s gracious response to those who maligned and abused his name. Yet, if a man were best suited for a certain position in government, even if it were a place on his own Cabinet, Lincoln would appoint an enemy almost as quickly as a friend.

At a post-election serenade in 1864 at the White House, President Lincoln said, “So long as I have been here I have not willingly planted a thorn in any man’s bosom. May I ask those who have not differed with me, to join me, in this same spirit towards those who have?” At another serenade at the White House just a year later, Lincoln said, “I do not impugn the motives of anyone opposed to me. It is no pleasure to me to triumph over anyone; but I give thanks to the Almighty for this evidence of the people’s resolution to stand by free government and the rights of humanity.” [3]

There are other amazing reports of the great Civil War President reaching out in a spirit of reconciliation toward Confederate soldiers.

It takes a man of behemoth virtue to show grace – to treat others according to the Golden Rule – a rule that doesn’t simply argue we should refrain from doing the evil to others we would not want done to us – but a rule that actually contends we should do the same good to others we would want done to us.

It should be remembered there are always odd results to trying to get even.

In his book, Wishful Thinking, Frederick Buechner has marvelously written: “Of the seven deadly sins, anger is the most fun. To lick your wounds, to smack your lips over grievances long past, to roll over your tongue the prospect of bitter confrontations still to come, to savor the last toothsome morsel both the pain you are given and the pain you are giving back – in many ways it is a feast fit for a king. The chief drawback is that what you are wolfing down is yourself. The skeleton at the feast is you.” [4]

No. Boehner’s bitterness – his seeking revenge against his political opponents doesn’t bode well for him. It is below him – it is below the prestige of his office – it is below the U.S. House of Representatives – it is below his political party – and it is below our beloved country.

The Speaker should know revenge only proves its own execution.

Resources:

[1] Crabtree, T. T. The Zondervan Pastor’s Annual 1971: A Planned Preaching Program for the Year. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, pg.155.

[2] “The Grudge Report.” Family Research Council. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Jan. 2015.

[3] “Abraham Lincoln and Friends – Opponents and Enemies.” Abraham Lincoln and Friends – Opponents and Enemies. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Jan. 2015.

[4] Larson, Craig Brian. Contemporary Illustrations for Preachers, Teachers, and Writers. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, pg. 7



 

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