Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Saturday, 18 May 19:
2 Samuel 10:18 — David killed of the Syrians the men of 700 chariots, and 40,000 horsemen, and wounded Shobach the commander of their army, so that he died there.
Proverbs 19:19 — A brother offended is more unyielding than a strong city, and quarreling is like the bars of a castle.
Today’s readings provide one of the history’s most powerful examples of how misunderstandings, misjudgments missteps, and misdeeds in relationships can quickly escalate out of control and result in great destruction. Don’t miss the lessons in this powerful story, which has been recorded in the Bible for your spiritual growth – “Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction.” (1 Corinthians 10:11) Consider how the story of David and Hanun relates to your past relationship problems and how the stories lessons can help you avoid future needless conflicts:
David sends a delegation to king Hanun to console him concerning the recent death of his father. Hanun, the young, inexperienced, poorly advised king of the Ammonites misinterprets David’s gesture of kindness, believing it to be a trick, and responds by publicly humiliating and dishonoring David’s envoys. The result is a pointless war between the Israelites, Ammonites and Syrians where over 40,000 people needlessly die.
Misinterpreting another’s motives. The Bible warns time and time again of the dangers and sinfulness of misinterpreting another person’s motives – “For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.” (1 Corinthians 2:11) “Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God.” (1 Corinthians 4:5)
Building, protecting and promoting trust. To his defense, it is not at all hard to understand why Hanun doubted David’s motives: Sending spies as envoys is a common tactic, and David’s modus operandus included this sort of deception. Remember in 1 Samuel 27, king Achish trusted David while David was secretly massacring villages within his land, leaving “neither man nor woman alive to bring news to Gath.” (1 Samuel 27:11) Would you have given David the benefit of the doubt? As Christians, we should strive to be above reproach, maintaining a reputation of trustworthiness. However, as Christians, we must also be willing to be trusting, to be vulnerable, to keep the door for relationship open. While we all can appreciate the saying, “Forgiveness is given, but trust is earned,” to some degree, trust must be given too – forgiveness in advance, knowing that we will all continue to sin and fall short. Trusting others is a demonstration of grace, giving unmerited second chances, even “seventy-seven” chances. (Matthew 18:22) After all, the Bible says that love, “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (1 Corinthians 13:7)
Consider this story relayed by R.C. Sproul about the trusting spirit of Thomas Aquinas:
– “The story begins with Thomas entering a classroom. The professor is not yet there, but most of the students are. They are all, however, by the window, craning their necks with excitement. Thomas asks what they are looking at so intently. ‘Thomas, come quickly,’ the students respond, ‘there are pigs—FLYING!’ Thomas rushes to the window, only to be met by the uproarious laughter of his fellow students. As the laughter dies down, Thomas gently but potently exposes their sin by saying simply, ‘I would rather believe that pigs could fly than that my friends would lie to me.’ We can, if we are imbued with the spirit of the age, mock such a trusting attitude. We can scorn such credulity. We can even baptize our cynicism with supporting biblical texts. ‘Come on now, Thomas. Don’t you know we’re to be harmless as doves, but as wise as serpents?’ (Matt. 10:16). Or, we can see it for what it is—an expression of that godly character which made Thomas a great man. We can see it as that which we should be most zealous to emulate in his life.”
Remaining sensitive to others’ vulnerabilities and concerns. During the death of a king and the subsequent transition to new leadership, a kingdom is very vulnerable, and Hanun surely felt insecure and defensive. A wiser David would have recognized the sensitivity of the situation and would have dealt with Hanun more carefully; but David, rather than considering Hanun’s perspective, assumed that Hanun would see things from his perspective, a big mistake we often make in our relationships.
Remaining aware of our own vulnerabilities. Hanun on the other hand reacted to David’s poorly timed gesture rashly, likely due to his insecurity as a new king. Insecurity makes people defensive and often causes them to assume the worse in others and subsequently sin against them. Insecurity can destroy relationships. How do you act when you feel threatened? Do you start to assume the worse in others? Do you begin to treat people as if they were really as bad as you only imagine them to be? Be careful of your preemptive strikes that can start needless wars.
Protecting the dignity of others. Hanun did one of the worse things someone can do in a relationship, he belittled, embarrassed, humiliated and dishonored David and his men. He robbed them of their dignity. In this case, neither party had the maturity, self-confidence, or moral courage to seek forgiveness and reconciliation. The dispute continued to escalate into great destruction.
The first rule in relationships is to seek first to understand rather than be understood. We must be sensitive to the vulnerabilities and insecurities of others. If we have offended someone, we must quickly seek forgiveness, restitution and reconciliation, even if the other party is not wholly innocent. If we have been offended, we must quickly forgive and seek reconciliation. “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” (Romans 12:18) “Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.” (2 Corinthians 13:11) Finally, we must NEVER dishonor or humiliate another person, but rather treat all people with dignity and respect.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 18 May 19: Seek to be more forgiving, more gracious and more trusting in your relationships today. Open the door of second chances (endless chances) to others, and keep it open, just like you want God to do for you.