When I was studying to be a pastor, I briefly played on an intramural sports team named the Elisha She Bears. That year all of the teams had to be named after gruesome events recorded in the Bible and this one’s a good one — you’re gonna want to hear it.
Elisha was a disciple, or student, of Elijah, one of God’s mightiest prophets in the Old Testament. These guys could love brave and also kick some butt with the Word of God. At the end of Elijah’s ministry, he gives a great blessing to Elisha, a double portion of his spirit, and is taken by chariots of fire and horses of fire, away from him as they talked. It is one of the most spectacular events recorded in the Bible as Elijah went up by a whirlwind to heaven.
At the same time, Elisha loses probably the most important person in his life, his mentor, his friend, the very person he wanted most to be like. He’s torn up, literally tearing his clothes, in mourning. He picks up Elijah’s cloak which had fallen, and starts to do what he had seen his mentor doing. Along the way, people recognize him and notice, “The spirit of Elijah rests on Elisha.” Elisha succeeds Elijah, and takes on the role of God’s appointed prophet.
As he continues to his next destination, traveling to Bethel, it’s recorded that some boys came out from the city and jeered him, saying “Go up, you baldhead! Go up, you baldhead!” They’re making fun of him for being bald. That’s not cool. I’m bald. I don’t want to be made fun of because I shave my head. In response, Elisha turned around and cursed them and it becomes all Halloween all up in there:
“And two she-bears came out of the woods and tore forty-two of the boys. From there he went on to Mount Carmel, and from there he returned to Samaria.”
“OPEN MOUTH EMOJI!” (Sometimes, I say my emoji feelings out-loud.) Are you for real?! Did that just happen? God’s prophet just called out a curse on boys for making fun of his bald head and two bears came out and mauled 42 of them!
God listens to His people. He isn’t joking around.
But then I see, I am Elisha. I’m the one calling down curses on people for the slight insults and offenses they give me.
I cannot bear all things. Some days, I can’t even bear the little things.
We talked in our video about loving our families. I want to share the best version of myself with my wife and with my kids, but sometimes they don’t get that version. They get the she-bear version. I’ve found that when I fail, fall, and sin, my best response is repentance. I ask for grace and forgiveness from my wife and my children, or whomever I’ve hurt, and I try to show them that I’m not perfect, not as a husband, or father, or man, or pastor. Love bears all things, even when I don’t.
That’s where I see the amazing mercy of my Savior.
One of His disciples, Peter, speaks of Jesus, “He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.” (BUTTON)
He bears it all, that I could be healed. It means that I’m forgiven. It means I’m restored and renewed. It means the impossible is possible because I have a Savior who did everything I could not. Love bears all things. He did. He does. He will forever.
Even for us she-bears.
I can go from cute and cuddly to a mass of snarling fur in 2.5 seconds. Bible stories like the one Matt shares are so encouraging to me. First, God is (at least a little) unpredictable. It’s good that we can’t box Him up. Bible stories should be occasionally a little surprising. God hears our cries and carries out help in all kinds of ways. Thankfully with Jesus we don’t need the vengeance of the Old Testament, but we still get to see justice and mercy coexist before our eyes. Second, I am a total she-bear, and God works in me all the same. Matt’s pun, while clever, is also insightful - He literally bears all the weight of my mess, so I can see His great brave love.