Now the sons of Eli were worthless men; they did not know the Lord. – 1 Samuel 2:12 (ESV)
The “Sons of Belial” (translated alternately as “worthless men”) had parents who were worthless before Eli’s generation. Violence was the middle name of this family. They fought the way we fight today, with weapons of mass destruction, even though they had never seen a gun. Weaponized fighting destroys masses because it creates a fear of power instead of pleasure in power.
I often suggest to couples in family counseling that they approach their problems from the point of view of power. When one says, “I have no power in this relationship” and the other says the same thing, we realize that powerlessness has descended upon the system. The two have become worthless to each other. They have collaborated in destroying their loving intimacy and are well on their way to violating whatever covenant they have made with each other. Just like the sons of worthlessness do. They develop amnesia about God, who wants everyone to be powerful. We are to mutually develop power for and with each other. That is love. That is God’s first, second and final commandment.
I often suggest that couples try a surprising path. Why don’t both of you try to make sure that each has lots of power? Why don’t you remember your Creator and your Creator’s intention? Lots of belonging. Lots of agency. Lots of freedom.
That way you will feel so good that you won’t get your weapons out.
Now that we have guns, power is fundamentally disproportionate. Uvalde, Buffalo, Newtown, Columbine come to mind. People who feel worthless find weapons, forget God and kill. They couldn’t find power any other way.
O God, please help us find you and find our power too—and hold our fire on each other.
Donna Schaper is Pastor at the Orient Congregational Church on the far end of Long Island, New York. Her newest book is Remove the Pews: Spiritual Possibilities for Sacred Spaces, from The Pilgrim Press.