Absalom’s life seems to consist of one crisis after another, many brought about by his own decisions. We would expect his father, King David, to use the battlefield as a way to be done with this rebellious and dangerous son. Instead, King David instructs his military leaders to “deal gently for my sake with the young man Absalom.”
As human beings, we usually do not respond with such grace to deceit and ruthless recklessness. We’re more likely to go for revenge and retaliation. The actions of David as Absalom’s father gives us a small glimpse of how God the Father prefers to operate.
After his sister was brutally murdered, John Sage founded Bridges to Life, an in-prison program that gets prisoners talking about what went so wrong in their lives that they wound up serving prison terms. Trained leaders meet with them in small groups each week to explore their past. Part of the program includes listening to stories from crime victims. Perhaps for the first time in their chaotic lives, these inmates are treated with kindness and respect, in spite of what they’ve done. They are transformed in the process. Participation in the program does not shorten their prison time, but it does change how they behave for the duration of it.
God’s grace transforms people. Wars like the one between David and Absalom continue to kill thousands of people and destroy communities. Yet, God’s grace manages to find footholds in the midst of destruction and despair. We may never put an end to war. However, we can choose to be partners with God in making grace known in the midst of conflict.
Gracious Lord, help me do my part in showing your grace to those in desperate need of a kind word and good news. Amen.
David’s family was a mess. Among his children there was rape, murder, and a plot to overthrow him by his son Absalom. Violence followed, and Second Samuel tells the story of Absalom’s death. Even though Absalom had betrayed him, David still loved his son with a parent’s never-ending love—the kind of love that God demonstrates perfectly for us, as David celebrates in Psalm 34. The author of Ephesians warns against acting out of anger, wrath, and malice (the very things that tore apart David’s family). We should instead forgive, as God in Christ has forgiven us. In John, Jesus restates that he is the path to God because he teaches God’s truth. Jesus will give his own life but then raise up those who believe in him.
• Read 2 Samuel 18:5-9, 15, 31-33. When have you been called to “deal gently” with a loved one?
• Read Psalm 34:1-8. Reflect on a time when you were able to intimately “taste and see” God’s goodness in your life.
• Read Ephesians 4:25–5:2. Are your words and actions imitating Christ?
• Read John 6:35, 41-51. God comes to us in unexpected ways. Who have you discounted as a servant of God? How can you support their ministry?
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