July 14, 2015

Love my enemies?

1 Samuel 24:1–25:44, 1 Peter 1:20–25, Psalm 125:1–127:5

Today I see another aspect of David’s life that points to Jesus. Yesterday it was his response to the abuse of those in authority over him. Today’s readings are about how to love my enemies.

Do I have enemies? I live in Canada where people are noted for continually apologizing. We Canucks are all about being polite. In general, if someone hates someone else, they will do very little to show it, but also very little or nothing at all to build or maintain a relationship. Animosity may come out in passive-aggressive behavior, but even with only that to contend with, David gives me some lessons.

Saul and his army had been after the Philistines when told that David was in the wilderness of Engedi. “He took three thousand chosen men out of all Israel and went to seek David and his men in front of the Wildgoats’ Rocks. And he came to the sheepfolds by the way, where there was a cave, and Saul went in to relieve himself.”

In the providence of God, David and his men were sitting in the innermost parts of the cave. And the men of David said to him, “Here is the day of which the Lord said to you, ‘Behold, I will give your enemy into your hand, and you shall do to him as it shall seem good to you.’ ”

David had another idea. He arose and stealthily cut off a corner of Saul’s robe. And afterward David’s heart struck him, because he had cut off a corner of Saul’s robe. David had a tender conscience. Instead of ignoring it, he also attention and said to his men, “The Lord forbid that I should do this thing to my lord, the Lord’s anointed, to put out my hand against him, seeing he is the Lord’s anointed.” So David persuaded his men with these words and did not permit them to attack Saul. And Saul rose up and left the cave and went on his way.” (1 Samuel 24:1–7)

David went to the mouth of the cave and called out to Saul, telling him what happened. When Saul realized how David had spared him, he wept and said to David, “You are more righteous than I, for you have repaid me good, whereas I have repaid you evil. And you have declared this day how you have dealt well with me, in that you did not kill me when the Lord put me into your hands. For if a man finds his enemy, will he let him go away safe? So may the Lord reward you with good for what you have done to me this day.” (1 Samuel 24:16–19)

David respected the one God had put on the throne. Even though this king was trying to kill him, they were both Israelites and brothers under God’s covenant. David was doing what Peter tells God’s people to do. This is from the NT reading for today: “Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart . . .” (1 Peter 1:22)

The Bible tells me that love comes from a pure heart and obedience to God’s truth. It is not feelings but action. So how do I treat those who are opposed to me, and do I do it sincerely and earnestly? Or is my attitude just a surface thing, making it hypocrisy?

Loving enemies is about respect, about not taking advantage when advantage presents itself. It is about refusing to listen to those who think retaliation is the better way. It is also about telling my enemy what is going on in my heart. I need to be honest in my description of events, but also transparent in how I feel, including any negative thoughts that ran through my mind, thoughts that I choose to dismiss in favor of loving as God loves. His grace is not about anyone deserving it, but about His choice to love and forgive.

Expressing the choices that I make may not produce the same result as it did for David (at least on that occasion), but my enemies should know that loving them is my choice. As a Christian, I can also say that this choice is possible because of God’s love for me. Without Him, I would not be able to do it.

As for Saul, this verse from the psalms could be applied to him: “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain” (Psalm 127:1) only I would slightly reword it. Unless the Lord builds my life, all my efforts are in vain. Unless God is watching over me, all my efforts to protect myself are useless. Without Him, I cannot do anything, much less love my enemies as He loves me.

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