Fellow Passengers: This week’s Pastoral Passage (2 Peter 2) transports me to a classic B.C. strip in the comics section, where Peter is clashing with Clumsy at the Curse Exchange rock. Peter says, May a funnel-web spider find your pillow case an ideal place to raise its young, to which Clumsy retorts, May your colonoscopy technician mistake a jar of Tabasco sauce for the tube of petroleum. Ouch. The apostle Peter must have been filling in for B.C.’s. Peter at the Curse Exchange in today’s passage, because he was pulling no punches with the heretics who were threatening to lead the early church astray. An accursed brood! He associated their guilt with that of the greedy prophet-for-hire, Balaam, and then he threw down on what he called a bunch of blots, blemishes, and brute beasts (bringing the old bad guy of Mid-Atlantic wrestling, Brute Bernard, to my mind). He saved his best ammo for last: may you be like the dog who returns to his own vomit and may you be like a washed pig who wallows in the mud.
Peter was responding to what he perceived as the curse of false teaching coming from the other side of the Curse Exchange rock. A couple of factors made these curses such a severe threat for him. For one thing, his comrade in missions, Paul, had recently died. And for another, Peter was himself approaching the end of his life. Both of these giants in the field had invested their entire heart and soul into the development of the early church. The idea of the fledgling churches losing their way, being sucked into the various and sundry craziness that passed for religion, was too much for him to bear, and he just had to vent.
I don’t spend a lot of my time cursing people, so this passage makes me a might nervous. I prefer B.C. strips of Wiley’s Dictionary to the Curse Exchange strips. (Here’s a favorite that I’ll bring up in honor of Balaam’s donkey. Question: What is the definition of “asphalt?” Answer: “blame the donkey.”) Ok, back to the passage. Peter’s outrageous blue streak of cussing reminds me that there have been times in my life when I became overanxious because something near and dear to me was threatened, something I had invested all my heart and soul in and wanted to see survive and thrive. It helps me understand why I spent lots of time cursing those who posed the threat, maybe not with literal verbal curses, but with a cursing attitude and a cursing behavior toward them. When I think about it, it might have improved my attitude and behavior toward this accursed brood of “enemies” if I had had the wherewithal to vent some of my frustration at the Curse Exchange.
At the end of the day, though, I don’t think there’s a real need to be overanxious in the first place, when it comes to preserving those things we have had a hand in creating. The spiritual challenge for me is to let go and generate enough trust that God will preserve what needs preserving, and all will be well. If the gates of hell won’t be able to prevail against the Jesus movement, then I don’t really need to worry about the Balaams of this world. Maybe the way to get to that place of trust is to do what a seminary professor counseled us to do: go into your closet and cuss. And lest I take myself too seriously in that cursing closet, I can always take along a B.C. strip to read. Click here for one of my all-time favorites, and anyone out there who knows me well will understand why I can identify with Dr. Peter, Head Shrinker.