Roy H. Lanier, Jr.
The historical reference to Eli in 1 Samuel 1-4 is a classic example of “softness.” Softness is that which results when personal sentiments and private affections collide with moral duty, and prevail! Thus divine duty yields to inferior impulses. Many good men, as did Eli, know their duty, but fail to perform it.
Eli had good things going for him: Kind treatment of Hannah; fatherly training of the boy Samuel; submission to Samuel’s first prophecy which was a stern rebuke to the family of Eli; and the godly devotion to the ark which was lost in battle. Yet, Eli’s failure to restrain his sons (1 Samuel 3:13) caused the destruction of his family, the loss of the ark, the pollution of worship, and fornication with the women from who were around the tabernacle.
Eli’s tragedy was softness. He had a fatal lack of stern resolve, a foolish tenderness which hindered his doing right, a weak indulgence by restraining not his sons, and he was blind to the powers he could have used as either father or judge!
We have softness in our nation. Criminals go unpunished by finding loopholes in the law, riots and illegal strikes go unrestrained, filth in films and print spreads into all communities, obscenities and flag burnings are indifferently shrugged off, and a growing disrespect for authority and law prevail. This is even among God’s ministers (Romans 13:1-8; 1 Peter 2:13-17).
We have softness in our homes: disobedient children who are not made to mind; unrestrained children who do as they please and are clearly masters of their own lives as they are indulged by their parents; and untaught children whose parents just do not love them enough to teach them modesty, manners, and respect. It takes a good balance of authority and affection, either one of which without the other is valueless.
We have softness in the church: rebels are allowed to refuse activities which the churches have planned; immoral members who lie, cheat, steal, commit adultery, and become drunkards are tolerated; and the unspiritual who absent themselves and show a listless unconcern are allowed to portray a form of godliness but deny the power thereof. Preachers and teachers are tolerated who would not disturb anyone. Bishops who fail to teach and lead are used because of their good “business sense.”
The path of responsibility is always one with anguish. We cannot do God’s work; He will not do ours. We stand in jeopardy as a nation, as homes before God, and as souls before our maker. We must not fail because of softness.