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Saturday, August 24, 2013

Hate or Love?

2 Samuel 19:5-6 (NASB) recounts how Joab, the commander of King David's armies, came and gave him the old what-for regarding David's reaction to the death of his son Absalom:

Then Joab came into the house to the king and said, “Today you have covered with shame the faces of all your servants, who today have saved your life and the lives of your sons and daughters, the lives of your wives, and the lives of your concubines, by loving those who hate you, and by hating those who love you. For you have shown today that princes and servants are nothing to you; for I know this day that if Absalom were alive and all of us were dead today, then you would be pleased."

David mourning Absalom

What is the backstory here? The trap that Christians and non-Christians alike stumble into (or jump into on purpose) is taking single verses or passages in the Bible and using them as a hammer to prove their point. In effect, are we attempting to use the Bible like a common hand tool and beat people into submission?

In Matthew 5:44-47 (NASB) Jesus tells us, "But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?"

I wonder what Joab would have made of that instruction? Don't get me wrong. I totally get where Joab was coming from. As Commander in Chief of Israel's military, Joab was looking after the King's interests. And although he knew David had asked that Absalom be spared, Joab drove three javelins through the young man's heart while he hung helpless in a tree. There may have been malice between Absalom and Joab, but it was probably more an act of political expediency than outright spite and disobedience to the King. Absalom had attempted to usurp David's throne; David was God's anointed. Had Absalom been left alive, he would have always been a threat to the King, to Jerusalem, and to Joab.

Joab wanted to wrench David from his grief over Absalom so that the men who had fought and risked their lives to restore the throne to David would not be sitting around saying, "Well that's a fine thank you."

Joab was also family - as were many others in David's court - and those who supported David without question needed to know that he, in turn, supported them.

Going back to the New Testament again, Luke 8:19-21 (NASB) provides another interesting statement by Jesus, "And His mother and brothers came to Him, and they were unable to get to Him because of the crowd. And it was reported to Him, "Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside, wishing to see You."

But He answered and said to them, "My mother and My brothers are these who hear the word of God and do it."

Our earthly families are important; what was Jesus trying to say? How does that differ from Joab's reaction in the Old Testament? Shouldn't Joab have understood that, even though Absalom had usurped the throne, conquered Jerusalem, defiled the King's concubines in full view of Israel, and previously raped the King's daughter (his own half-sister), the King would still mourn the loss of his son?

It sounds to me like, at least in this case, Joab was taking the longer view and acting as he believed appropriate to maintain and support God's chosen ruler. Joab knew that God had anointed David King - and that was more important than the death of (one of) his son(s).

Yet family or no, David was loving his enemy.

It was brought to my attention the other day that there was a group page on Facebook named, "Witches Must Die By Fire". The founder of this group was a self-professing Christian and he/she challenged other weak Christians to join his/her cause and fight the enemy. He/she said that if Christians united as strongly as pagans or Muslims, we [sic] would have already taken over the world.

First of all, as a Christian, I'd like to point out that it's not my job to take over the world. Naturally, I have reservations concerning witches and pagans. However, any thoughts I might have regarding their beliefs and practices fall into the same category as those regarding anyone who does not believe that Jesus is our eternal King. But seriously, die by fire?

The founder of this hate-filled page - which has since been (thankfully) taken down by Facebook - obviously skimmed over the love your enemy references that Jesus made in the Gospels. He/she must've also missed Paul's note in Ephesians 6:12 (NASB), "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places."

Paul doesn't mention a hate-filled Facebook page when describing the full armor of God.

I don't claim to have the Bible all figured out. God's Word is complex and He will speak to us in different ways through different passages at different times. However, there are some pretty straight forward passages, and I've tried to point out a few in this blog. Finally, Peter - that rabble-rousing, ear slicing fisherman that Christ used to start His earthly church - has an oft-quoted instruction in 1 Peter 3:14-16 (NASB) that bears repeating: "But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. AND DO NOT FEAR THEIR INTIMIDATION, AND DO NOT BE TROUBLED, but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame." [EMPHASIS from BLB text]

Thanks Peter; that's some good advice I needed to hear again today.

What do you think?


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