Samson (the one in the Bible) is not a nice guy. But it took me at least until high school to realize this.
Some of you who know the story are rolling your eyes. “What was your first clue? The way he broke basically all of the Ten Commandments? That little incident with the prostitute? Maybe the time he dealt with a breakup by lighting hundreds of foxes on fire to burn down his enemies’ fields?”
In my defense, Samson’s story is so action-packed that it’s often told in Sunday School, and the kiddie version (understandably) sanitizes some of the violence and edits out all the hanky-panky. For a while, without context, Samson seemed like the perfect biblical superhero: strong, brave, and used by God to defeat Israel’s enemies.
Then one day it dawned on me that Samson is a classic antihero, one whose story should come with a content warning label and an announcement that this is a cautionary tale, not a role model profile. Surprise!
The thing is, we like strong characters. People who get things done. Heroes who take action instead of letting life just kinda happen to them. And Samson is that, for sure. Told that way, with that particular slant, he makes a great and uncomplicated story.
But if we don’t watch out, that natural love of an active protagonist can turn into a tricky little lie that I see in the church from time to time: Competence excuses bad judgment. The results matter more than the way you get there. Or, to go from general to specific…
“Fine, maybe I shouldn’t have phrased it like that, but I have a forceful personality. Everything I said was true. Isn’t that enough?”
“I wish people would stop complaining about Leader VonSuperpower—God is in control, and he can use anyone, right? Besides, at least he’s getting things done.”
“She pretends she’s being open-minded, but you know what? I think she’s just too afraid of offending anyone to actually have an opinion on XYZ issue.”
“I love the way Blogger McMegaphone isn’t afraid to say it like it is. Sure, it’s a little cutting sometimes, but the other side is asking for it.”