With modern sensibility we can often be shocked at the imagery of battles and death in the old Testament, but today's first reading today reminds us that actions and consequences.
The sons of Eli at the center of today's story have allowed themselves and those who work for them to become greedy. In their minds they are special and therefore entitled. Why they end up in a battle against the philistines? We aren't told. What we are told is that they think that they think because they are the chosen people they can expect God to protect them. Instead, God allows them to suffer the consequences of their actions. They not only lost their lives but lost the Ark of the covenant.
The saddest part is that their choices did not only affect their lives but thousands of others. God is a loving God, but God is also a just God, and a good parent. God allows us to suffer the natural consequences of our own bad choices. God will not protect us from our own stupidity.
Before we claim that it isn't fair that others suffer because of their choices I would call to mind two things God has told us from the beginning. First, we are created interconnected. No matter who much we worship individual accomplishment, the fact remains. All our actions one way or the other impact others.
Secondly, these men did not come who they were in isolation. They grew up to be the men they were. How many people as they were growing saw them headed down the wrong path and said or did nothing, possibly because they were the sons of someone important? How many people enabled the behavior, even when they were young? How many people around them even benefited from their bad behavior? How many willingly followed them into battle, with dreams of conquest?
People complain about their leaders and yet the leaders like all of us are products of their culture. The results not only of their own choices but of millions of choices and examples of others throughout their lives.
These stories are not easy to read and the lessons are hard but necessary.
The good news is God is always standing by ready to help us put things right.