Editorial: Brinkmanship

Anyone who has flown in or out of Washington DC, may well have used Dulles International Airport. It was named after John Foster Dulles who served as Secretary of State for the USA during the 50s under President Dwight D. Eisenhower. His additional claim to fame was a diplomatic style known as “brinkmanship.” Simply defined, it was the policy of pushing opposing nations to the brink in negotiations. At times, that brink meant the brink of war; at other times it meant strained and difficult relationships.

Brinkmanship policies would be dangerous enough were they limited only to the political and international arenas. Unfortunately the same policy is evident in much of spiritual life. Perhaps no one life so illustrates that tragedy as does the life of Samson.

Born a Nazarite, his early days were marked with tremendous potential as, at times, the Spirit of God began to move him (Jud 13:25). Muted conversation, no doubt, circled the Israelite homes and campfires, that, perhaps, just perhaps, here was the man to deliver them from the dreaded yoke of Philistine bondage.

But, Samson practiced brinkmanship. Why go down to Timnath (ch 14:1)? In the wrong place he saw the wrong thing. His eyes saw one of the daughters of the Philistines and he decided he must have her as a wife. On the way to Timnath he passed a vineyard. As a Nazarite he was to refrain from wine and strong drink; yet what harm would there be to go into the vineyard? It was not wine, only what would become wine. But, there, amidst the vines, he killed a lion in self-defense (ch 14:5-6). This was not warning enough; he left the dead lion on the vineyard floor and continued to Timnath.

On a return trip he again went down through the vineyard. The honey-filled carcass of the lion intrigued Samson. He extracted the honey from the dead animal and thus broke, again, his Nazarite vow – a vow that prohibited contact with the dead.

His ultimate act of brinkmanship, however, was in the lap of Delilah. She made two attempts to pry out of him the secret of his strength, but he did not give in. On her third entreaty he flirted with the “brink” of the secret. He teased her with the notion of weaving the seven locks of his hair with a web (ch 16:13). Why get so close to the secret? Why push everything to the limit? Why even mention his hair?

Delilah pleaded and whined again. This time Samson toppled over the brink. His life of usefulness came to a halt with tragic and solemn consequences.

Spiritual brinkmanship is practiced by many of us today. Many walk as close to the world as possible. How worldly can we become and still salve our consciences with a fa�ade of separation? Walking in fellowship with Christ does not go hand in hand with purposely peering over the edge. Christ does not walk on the brink. Do we?