Revenge: “The Mentalist” and a Culture of Honor

2 02 2012

I found inspiration for this post watching an episode of “The Mentalist” and reading Culture of Honor by Danny Silk.  The shows main conflict is the main character’s (Patrick Jane) struggle with the man, Red John, who killed his wife and daughter.  Patrick wants revenge.  He wants to find Red John and kill him. Revenge means an action taken in return for an injury or offense.  Interestingly, I’ve found myself often seeking revenge, and in reading “Dearly Loved Children of Light” in Culture of Honor, I discovered why.

I’ll explain why, but I first want to examine the ending of the show. In this episode, Jane comes face-to-face with a man who claims to be the elusive Red John in the food court of shopping center.  Jane discovers Red John after foiling a plot he allegedly masterminded.  The two sit together and talk about the situation.  Then Red John tells Jane that he is going to do him a favor.  He is going to set Jane free from seeking revenge against him.  Jane, teary-eyed, dismisses the offer and assures Red John that he will find him and kill him.  Red John tells Jane to stop wasting his life with revenge because he (Red John) is an average guy, he is not a monster, and he is not worth losing a life over.

This takes me back to Culture of HonorIn the chapter mentioned above, the Danny Silk points out the difference between living under the law and living under grace.  Normally, Christians believe living under grace means that our sins are forgiven, and we deserve to be punished for our sins.   However, grace says that punishment is done away with in the cross.  Jesus fulfilled the law on our behalf through his death on the cross.  And since we don’t deserve punishment, we shouldn’t dish it out.  When we do punish, we are putting ourselves and those we punish back under the law.

Silk likens seeking to punish those who have wronged us to trying to control our relationships, to protect our relationship with rules.  This is why we seek revenge. The problem is relationships don’t operate according to rules.  Because Jesus didn’t use rules and  because he demonstrated true love in grace which leads to the forgiveness of sin, so should we.  Silk points to the story of the aduletrous woman as a clear demonstration of this truth.   The religious leaders wanted the woman punished for breaking the rules, but Jesus wisely told them that he who was without sin could cast the first stone.  One by one, the religious leaders left, and Jesus went to the woman and said, “Woman, where are they? Does no one condemn you?”  to which she replies, “No one, Master.” His response was to say He didn’t condemn her and to tell her to go and sin no more.  Jesus showed her love, gave her grace, and set her free.  See John 8:3-11.

In the story, the religious leaders wanted her punished so that the law to be vindicated.  As a matter of fact, revenge comes from the Latin vindicare meaning to avenge, punish, or lay claim to.  So when we seek revenge, to what are we laying claim?  What did the religious leaders claim in seeking the woman’s punishment?  What do I seek when I want to punish my sons for disobeying? We are seeking to be right and to control behavior by governing it with rules.  And we miss God’s grace.

Going back to “The Mentalist,” to the conflict in the food court.  Red John gets up to leave, and Patrick Jane seems to just let him go.  But Jane calls out to the man asking him to stop. Red John turns around and sees Jane walking up to him with a pained look in his eyes.  They face each other, and then three gunshots ring out in the food court.  Jane had a gun in his jacket which he used to shoot Red John.   Then he calmly sat down at his original table and asked for his dinner check.  He had his revenge, and he should feel better.  I don’t believe he did.  The reality of his situation hadn’t changed, and his wife and daughter are still dead, and now so is another person.

What happens when we live in grace? Will we seek to punish those who have wronged us? Or like Christ, we will we seek to restore them to their heavenly calling through love and grace?  Another question could be raised: Do we trust God to repay the debt we are owed?




One response

2 02 2012

Great composition, honey! Very interesting way to weave the stories and truth together.

Love ya!

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