By the Rev. Lee
Bridgewater, Massachusetts, May
12:1-13 Nathan's parable to David
sent Nathan to David. When he came to him, he said, "There were two
men in a certain town, one rich and the other poor. The rich man had a
very large number of sheep and cattle, but the poor man had nothing
except one little ewe lamb that he had bought. He raised it, and it grew
up with him and his children. It shared his food, drank from his cup,
and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him.
a traveler came to the rich man, but the rich man refrained from taking
one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare a meal for the traveler who
had come to him. Instead, he took the ewe lamb that belonged to the poor
man and prepared it for the one who had come to him."
burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, "As surely as
the Lord lives, the man who did this deserves to die! He must pay for
that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no
Nathan said to David, "You are the man! This is what the Lord, the
God of Israel, says: 'I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered
you from the hand of Saul. I gave your master's house to you, and your
master's wives into your arms. I gave you the house of Israel and Judah.
And if all this had been too little, I would have given you even more.
Why did you despise the word of the Lord by doing what is evil in his
eyes? You struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and took his wife
to be your own. You killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. Now,
therefore, the sword shall never depart from your house, because you
despised me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own.'
is what the Lord says: 'Out of your own household I am going to bring
calamity upon you. Before your very eyes I will take your wives and give
them to one who is close to you, and he will lie with your wives in
broad daylight. You did it in secret, but I will do this thing in broad
daylight before all Israel.'"
David said to Nathan, "I have sinned against the Lord."
6:27-36 Love your enemies
tell you who hear me: Love your enemies; do good to those who hate you;
bless those who curse you; pray for those who mistreat you. If someone
strikes you on one cheek, offer the other one also. If someone takes
your cloak, do not withhold your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you,
and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to
others as you would have them do to you.
you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners
love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to
you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend
to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you?
Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full.
love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting
to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be
sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.
Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful."
Christian Religion #43.2 God's love for good and evil people
love goes out and reaches not only to good people and things, but also
to evil people and things. So it reaches not only to the people and
things in heaven, but also to the people and things in hell; not only to
Michael and Gabriel, but also to the Devil and Satan. For God is
everywhere and to eternity the same. He also says in Matthew 5:45 that
he makes his to sun rise on the good and the evil, and sends rain on the
righteous and the unrighteous.
burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, "As surely as
the Lord lives, the man who did this deserves to die!" . . . Then
Nathan said to David, "You are the man!" (2 Samuel 12:5, 7)
It is so
easy to point fingers.
the king of all Israel, and Nathan the prophet had a tough job to do.
You see, David had let his power go to his head. One day, as he was
walking around on the roof of his magnificent palace (flat roofs were
the norm in Palestine), looking out at the city laid out below him, he
caught sight of a woman taking an evening bath. The woman was very
beautiful, and David decided he wanted her. So he sent someone to find
out who she was, and learned that her name was Bathsheba . . . and she
was married. David was not deterred by this, as he should have been.
After all, he was the king! Besides, her husband was off fighting
against the Ammonites in David's army, and he would never know the
difference. So David used his kingly power to have Bathsheba brought to
him. And there at the palace, he committed adultery with her.
took its course, and soon David received word from Bathsheba that she
was pregnant. David had to do something about this embarrassing
situation, so he turned to the natural first line of defense of those
caught in the act: deception. He had Bathsheba's husband Uriah sent home
from war and brought to the palace, where he asked him how the war was
going. But this was just a cover for his real purpose: David sent Uriah
to his house to be with his wife, so that Uriah would think that the
child was his own.
was too loyal to his fellow soldiers, and would not take his pleasure
while they were fighting and dying. He would not go down to his house,
but insisted on sleeping with the men at the door of the castle. David
tried a second time, getting Uriah drunk so that his resistance would be
lowered. Uriah would still not go down to his house.
frustrated no doubt by the stubborn loyalty of this subject, had to take
stronger measures. He used Uriah as the messenger of his own doom,
giving him a letter for his commander with instructions for Uriah to be
put in the front lines where fiercest fighting was taking place, and
then to be left unsupported so that he would be killed by the enemy.
When deception didn't work, David turned to murder.
Nathan the prophet had the job of carrying the message of the Lord's
displeasure to David, who had just used the position of power in which
the Lord had placed him to steal another man's wife, commit adultery
with her, and then practice deception and murder in order to cover up
his offenses. Of course, Nathan hoped to keep his own head on his
shoulders, so either from his own acumen or under inspiration from the
Lord, he told David the parable that we heard in our Old Testament
reading--and succeeded in getting David to point an accusing finger
straight at himself.
It is so
easy to point fingers that we rarely realize, when we are pointing an
accusing finger at someone else, that all too often we may as well be
pointing that finger at ourselves. The apostle Paul hit the nail right
on the head when he said, "You, therefore, have no excuse, you who
pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the
other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the
same things" (Romans 2:1).
easy to see what everyone else is doing wrong; it is much harder to see
what we ourselves are doing wrong. We hear in the news about people who
do terrible things: murder, robbery, rape, embezzlement, fraud. And we
are quick to hand down harsh sentences for those malefactors--just as
David, in his anger, blurted out that the rich man who took the poor
man's ewe lamb deserved to die, and then decreed fourfold restitution.
But how could David pay restitution to a man who was dead by the king's
our sins aren't quite as spectacular as David's. Power is a double-edged
sword. It can be used to do great good, but when misused, it can also do
great damage. None of us here in church today has the power of a
king--at least, not outwardly. But within our own souls, we are
king. We are the ones who will make the "big decisions"
about how we will direct our lives, and what we will do with what the
Lord and our society have given to us. We are the ones who will
decide whether we will turn our lives toward good or toward harm.
one of us has, at times, made the wrong choice. Every one of us has
personal weaknesses and failings that we struggle with even
now--weaknesses that push us toward the wrong decision when we are in a
tight spot. And like David, every one of us has tried to paper over with
excuses some wrong thing we have said or done--and if that didn't work,
we have resorted to the more subtle murder of character assassination by
blaming our conduct on someone else.
made me so mad I couldn't help it!" Or, "Did you hear what she
was saying about me? I had to defend myself!" Or perhaps, after we
have been in a conflict with someone, we discredit the other person to
make ourselves look like the aggrieved party: "His father had a
nasty temper, and so does he. Nobody could get along with someone like
that!" And so, like David, we try to walk away from the situation
without taking any responsibility for our own words and actions.
somewhere in our mind and heart, the Lord is trying to get a message
through to us. Somewhere inside of us, the word of the Lord is coming to
us, asking to be heard. That message might sound something like this:
I tell you who hear me:
Love your enemies; do good to those who hate you; bless those who
curse you; pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on
one cheek, offer the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not
withhold your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone
takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you
would have them do to you. (Luke 6:27-31)
difficult words to follow. Living as we do in a society that places a
high value on material possessions and on personal sovereignty, our
minds rebel at the idea of simply letting people attack us and take away
what belongs to us.
even on the literal level, the principles of nonviolent resistance that
come from Gospel passages such as these have conquered where retaliation
and violence never would have. Gandhi drove the mighty British empire
out of India, not with violence, but by teaching the people to absorb
the cruelty of the occupying power without striking back, while not
participating in the economic oppression that the British were imposing
upon them. And so the British, with their overwhelming military power,
were driven out by the moral and spiritual power of those they were
Martin Luther King, Jr., used the same principles to show the moral
bankruptcy of prejudice and racial segregation, so that the moral power
of love and respect for all people began to win the battle.
of loving our enemies and doing good to those who hate us works also on
the deeper, spiritual levels of life. And it works when we are in the
wrong as well as when we are in the right. When we feel that we are in
the right, it is so easy to look down on the other person. But even as
we look down on the other person, we are committing spiritual murder
inwardly: we are killing their worth as a person in our hearts. And when
we are in the wrong, it is so easy to turn a blind eye to our own
attitudes and actions, and blame someone else instead. But in doing so,
as Paul said, we pass judgment on ourselves, because we are accusing
others of the very failings that we ourselves have fallen into.
of not resisting evil is a more difficult one, but the rewards are so
much greater! I experienced this once in my early twenties, when I was
making my living doing odd jobs and yard work. But I was getting lazy,
and not taking the work--or the people--seriously. One day I showed up
hours late to do some work for a man that I worked for regularly. This
was the last straw. As soon as I arrived, he started yelling at me.
Naturally, I didn't like that very much, and I was just about to start
defending myself. But a voice inside me said, "No, he has a right
to be angry, and you need to listen to him." And so I did. He
yelled at me for perhaps twenty minutes or half an hour, recounting all
my failings and my shortcomings in a way that was most painful for me.
And I stood there and took it.
If I had
tried to "strike back" and defend myself, my work relationship
with that man would have been over. But because that time I listened to
the inner voice, and did not resist the painful onslaught of words, the
relationship continued. I admitted to myself and to him that I had not
been treating him right. He decided I wasn't such a bad guy after all,
and had me come back to work for him many more times. And after that, I
showed up on time!
easy to point fingers. But in the long run, it works out so much better
to listen to the inner voice of the Lord that says, "You are
the one!" We are the ones who need to look inside ourselves
and see where we have been mistaken and have not treated others right. We
are the ones who need to look to the Lord for the strength to love our
enemies, do good to those who hate us, bless those who curse us, and
pray for those who mistreat us. Amen.