L'Abri Newsletter, June 2015
May 28, 2015
Dear L’Abri praying family,
First, please pray for rain. Most of Korea is suffering from a severe drought. It has not rained enough for months in Yangyang. The reservoirs and riverbeds are drying up. Farmers are very concerned; some have even given up on planting anything this year.
Even so, we have several things to be thankful for. First, ChungSeong seems to be adjusting well to Yangyang and L’Abri. He hangs out well both with the young and the old, serves visitors with delicious food, and is properly learning things one by one. Please continue praying that he will soon learn to perceive well the troubles and sufferings of young people.
JinSeong and Sul-Ah are living happily with their three children in BaekAm House. Sul-Ah, in spite of her busy routine preparing meals and raising three children, is splitting her time to study English as well. JinSeong is taking care of every corner of our house, and everything he touches is fixed as if he were Midas. Please pray that their family will be able to balance their studies, work, and volunteering activities while enjoying a fruitful internship in L’Abri.
God sent us many young people searching for the truth and a direction for life. However, since most of them spent less than a week here, there were seldom opportunities for deep conversation. We get anxious that we may not be able to help them in their hour of need. Please continue praying that God sends us those in need, and also that we workers can provide the help they need.
Thankfully, one of the students, MyeongIn, a math prodigy, stayed with us for about ten weeks. Despite his terrible back pain, he has applied to study and work with us as a helper. Also among other guests were the members of Jang-ri Church, a group of professors from BaekSeok University, and Pastor Jeong, who along with with leaders from his SamSong First Church stayed with us for two nights and three days. Each visit was a brand-new experience for us.
We would like especially to thank God for the foreigners who came all the way to Yangyang to stay with us. Julia, a foreign student who is studying at Yonsei University, will be visiting us again in June to receive her long overdue baptism. James, an English teacher from America, borrowed a dozen books from us to strengthen his foundation of Christian doctrines. Robert, an English professor from Canada who lost his faith after coming to Korea, promised to return with more questions about the Bible. A doctor from Laos, who is studying epidemiology at the National Cancer Center of Korea, stayed with us for two nights.
I recently gave a lecture, about the growth and decline of the Korean church, to a group of eighteen people—pastors, lawyers, and doctors—from Kenya. Led by Missionary ChanHo Ahn, the “spiritual father of the Masai people,” they came to visit Yangyang Central Methodist Church (Pastor InSeok Jeon) and the Unification Observatory in the DMZ. Among them was the director of a Kenyan Methodist Church, who asked for prayer since Christianity in Kenya is undergoing a similar process of decline as the Korean church is.
I am especially thankful to those of you who have continued to support L’Abri amidst the general economic depression. I’ve become afraid to receive phone calls lately, as there have been so many calls of apology from people who are no longer able to support us. We had to stop almost all construction work, even vital maintenance. Please pray that L’Abri and those in need would be able to go through this financial hardship. Please pray in particular for the youth who are looking desperately for a job.
Have you ever told a friend on another friend’s secret, or heard someone telling on another? Telling on, or "snitching", is one of our dirtiest and most shameful behaviors, much disliked by God, yet one of the most common incidents found throughout history. There is much snitching in politics and international relations as well.
In a TV special on JTBC, Seok-Hi Son said: “snitching seems to have a negative meaning, whereas an official criminal charge feels positive and seems to serve the common good. Yet in the end, they both tell others about someone else’s wrongdoing.” His analysis left room for much debate.
In this paper, I’d like to share my thoughts on the mechanisms of snitching, based on 1 Samuel 21-22 and Psalm 52. It is the story of a character named Doeg, who snitched on David and Ahimelech to King Saul. (For further reading, please consult my paper in the online library of our website, or contact L’Abri.)
First of all, everyone can snitch. Although no one is born an adept snitcher, of course, our nature enables each of us to become one. Doeg was an Edomite. In the Bible, the word “Edomite” is used to describe a person with a cunning, hypocritical, and sinister character. An example would be Hadad, who fled to Egypt away from David, led a complacent life after marring the king’s sister-in-law, but came back to Israel to cause trouble when Solomon inherited the throne. (1 Kings 11:14-25) Another example is Esau, who chose a bowl of lentil stew to quench his momentary hunger over the right of primogeniture. (Genesis 25:30) Any person who cannot silently bury others’ secrets or wrongdoing in one’s heart is a potential snitcher.
There is a high possibility that someone close to you can snitch on you or vice versa. Doeg was Saul’s chief shepherd, but somehow he was “detained before the Lord” in the temple where the priest Ahimelech was. (1 Samuel 21:7, ESV) The word “detained” indicates that he is “restricted,” “banned from going,” “shut in,” or “confined.” (Jeremiah 36:5, Nehemiah 6:10, ESV and NIV) On this, Stoebe wrote that “Doeg could have been kept in the temple as a prisoner, waiting for a divine revelation, or enacting some kind of ritual for atonement.” Perhaps in order to get out of such a bind, Doeg snitched on someone whom he encountered on a daily basis. We could all do the same.
An environment of nepotism and factional conflict encourages snitching. Saul fostered such a hostile atmosphere. In one hand, he held his spear and threatened others to obey him; on the other hand, he stealthily promised material reward for those who helped him. With his lips, he appealed to blood ties: “Hear now, men of Benjamin,” (1 Samuel 22:7, ESV) says Saul. It is the same idea as the infamous Korean saying, “Don’t you know me?” Despite having been anointed as the king of all twelve tribes, Saul practiced nepotism, favoring his own tribe. The dirty act of snitching will never disappear as long as there is nepotism and favoritism.
Snitching is a secret disclosure of other people’s secrets. The “disclosure” that Saul encouraged among his subordinates is galah in Hebrew, which means “to uncover, reveal, or expose something shameful or dishonorable.” Saul incited the telling of one another’s secrets and wrongdoing. David describes this policy as one of lying, deceit, and evil, like a tongue plotting destruction and a sharp razor. (Psalm 52:1-4, ESV) Secrecy defines snitching, distinguishing it from an official report to the authorities, whistle-blowing, or reporting.
The aim of snitching is to gain personal benefits at the expense of others. Doeg told Saul three things: that Ahimelech prayed to God for David’s future, that he gave him food, and that he gave him Goliath’s sword. (1 Samuel 22: 9-10) Prayer, food, and a sword were not merely what a refugee needed. To the schemers in Saul’s court, prayer could be interpreted as an oracle, the food as a gesture to treat David as an equal to the priests and kings, and the sword as a symbol of David’s glory. In other words, they were symbols of treason. Doeg emphatically repeats the words “Ahimelech inquired,” “gave him” and “gave him,” presenting Ahimelech as an active co-conspirator in David’s treason. Doeg probably wished to gain Saul’s trust and reward by making a scapegoat of Ahimelech.
There is no real way to win over or cope with snitching. You could remain silent, snitch back or sue back, actively defend yourself, or face death. However, Ahimelech did not remain silent, anxious of his social standing. He did not sell David over, afraid of Saul’s sword. Nor did he give up defending himself, worried for his friends and family. Ahimelech defended himself by explaining two things: that David never plotted treason, and that Ahimelech himself had never heard of it. (1 Samuel 22: 14-15) Although Ahimelech not a strong man, he refused to negotiate with the unrighteous. With death, he and the other priests demonstrated their innocence. Had Ahimelech survived, he may have forgiven Doeg; but as a wise man, he would not have trusted him anymore.
When you are forced to respond to snitches, it is better to repent than to make excuses. Instead of listing excuses or blaming Doeg, David repented, telling Ahimelech’s son “I have occasioned the death of all the persons of your father’s house.” (1 Samuel 22:22, ESV) It was wrong of David to have said “Give me five loaves of bread,” revealed that he did not have many followers, and failed to take measures to prevent Doeg’s snitching, knowing that Doeg could tell on Saul. (1 Samuel 21:1-3; 22:22) Moreover, David lied to Ahimelech, pretending as if he was on an official errand, while in fact he was running away from Saul. David confessed his mistakes and sins.
For the snitch, on the other hand, the price of snitching is grave. First, Doeg had the blood of innocent people on his hands. Many people ridiculed and denounced him, saying “oh, you are a mighty man (Gibbor), too?” (Psalm 52:1-2. Gibbor means “a champion”, “a valiant warrior”, and “a strong and outstanding man.”) He also received an eternal curse: “God will break you down forever; he will snatch and tear you from your tent; he will uproot you from the land of the living.” (Psalm 52:5) Doeg saw his line decimated; David soon killed 18,000 Edomites (2 Samuel 8:13-14), and Joab, the commander of his army, later struck down every man of Edom. (1 Kings 11:15-16) Reminding ourselves of the terrible price of snitching is one way to keep a careful watch over our mouths.
I pray that none of us will succumb to the temptation to make a quick profit at the expense of others’ trust and livelihood as Doeg did. Even as the ruthless world torments us, let us respond like David did—bravely, meekly, and above all righteously.
At the tail of the spring term,
Translated by Haejin Sung