43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. Matthew 5:43-45
A few weeks ago, I wrote about why I didn’t much like David, even though he is called the “man after God’s own heart” (see Day 111: Not Really Loving David Today, and Why I’m Not Supposed To). Today’s reading gives me more reasons not to like David. The whole thing seems to be all about revenge, and it leaves me feeling a little gross.
David replaces Joab because he’s mad about getting called out (19:13). Later, Joab stabs Amasa because he’s bitter about losing his job (20:9-10).
In 19:10-23, David seems to be magnanimous in extending forgiveness to Shimei, but if you fast forward to his deathbed conversation with Solomon in 1 Kings 2, you see that literally David’s last words were airing his grievances over Shimei cursing him decades before (1 Kings 2:8-9). For an outstanding scholarly article on this, check out “King David’s Troubling Deathbed Instructions” at thetorah.com.
Finally, in 2 Samuel 21:5-6, David seems to think that God will bring a famine in the land to an end if the Gibeonites are allowed to execute seven sons of Saul. Tara Leigh astutely notes that this was not an explicit command from God. This may have been David acting on his own. God responding to the plea for the land (v. 14) seems to be connected more to the bones of Saul and Jonathan being interred than it does to the deaths of the seven sons.
So God, what do you have to teach me in these dark passages?
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus showed us a better way. Rather than revenge, Jesus preached reconciliation. Instead of brooding over past slights, whether real or perceived, Jesus invited us to turn the other cheek. Go the extra mile. Leave your gift at the altar and be reconciled to your brother. Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be called children of your father who is in Heaven (Matthew 5:45).
So it seems we have a choice. We can follow David, or we can follow the Son of David. One perpetuates a cycle. The other breaks a cycle.
The band Coldplay has this lyric in their song “Death and all His Friends,” one of the songs on Viva la Vida:
No, I don’t wanna battle from beginning to end;
I don’t want a cycle of recycled revenge;
I don’t want to follow death and all of his friends.
The cycle of recycled revenge is the surest way to follow Death and all his friends. The way of Jesus, the way of loving your enemies, is the way of life and peace.
God, you remind me today that constantly mulling over old grievances, seeking to settle scores, and looking to get even is to follow death and all his friends. Help me not to keep cycling recycled revenge. Today, let me be a person of peace who breaks the cycle instead of perpetuating it. Today, I want to follow Jesus, and not David.
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