Respect. In this rapidly embittered world of Twitter wars, sound bites, and social media onslaughts, there is a critical need for the respect of others’ perspectives. It is comforting to know that we are not the first culture to face this challenge. David gives one piece of instruction for the commander of his army, “Deal gently with my son.” His advice is not to avoid justice, ignore the offense, or even let Absolom’s treachery stand. Instead David urges, “Deal gently.” However, Joab cannot honor his king’s request. Joab hears that Absolom is vulnerable, and he takes advantage of that vulnerability. Seeing the damage Absalom has caused to the nation, Joab simply cannot accept a gentler punishment. Israel is in turmoil, set ablaze at the hands of this traitorous king. Joab feels compelled to act decisively.
Joab kills Absalom as he is caught in that jagged tree. Joab’s actions are not a surprise. He is filled with rage, and his vengeance is real and premeditated. It is human and natural, but it is not beneficial. Joab lets his need for revenge cloud his judgment. What is fascinating about our reading is how quickly the rest of the men join in. They pile on and decimate the body of a man who is already dead. By doing this, they compromise their integrity and deeply wound their own king whose request they have totally disregarded. The warning to us is obvious. Our reactions impact not only our own lives; their influence reaches far beyond what we often realize. Add social media to our reactions and the reach is endless. May this lesson give us pause in our moments of anger. When we are offended, filled with a need for revenge, may we hear the Spirit whisper, “Deal gently with my child,” as we honor the image of God within those with whom we find fault.
Dear Lord, you ask us to turn the other cheek in times of conflict and to pray for our enemies. Give us the strength to be respectful in the midst of tension. 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, then raise up those who believe in him.
Read 2 Samuel 18:5-9, 15, 31-33. What helps you to “deal gently” with others? What makes it challenging at times?
Read Psalm 34:1-8. When have you been able to “taste and see” God’s goodness?
Read Ephesians 4:25–5:2. How do your words and actions reflect what you profess to believe about Christ?
Read John 6:35, 41-51. God comes to us in unexpected ways. Is there someone you have overlooked or dismissed as a servant of God? How can you work to see people as God sees them?
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