Thankfully, I find myself in a season of life when I am relatively free of significant conflict. Through no merit of my own, the LORD has put me in a place in which the relationships that I share with colleagues and church members and others are characterized by trust and mutual affection rather than suspicion and jealousy; and I am deeply grateful for the peace-of-mind that I experience as a result.
However, I can remember times when my relational climate was not so tranquil. There have been occasions when I felt deeply wronged by others — supervisors, friends, partners-in-ministry and so on — and it has been remarkably easy to visualize scenarios of how I’d make sure that “they got theirs” if the opportunity ever presented itself.
Enter today’s Old Testament lesson (1 Samuel 24). David is on the run from Saul after Saul comes to the the inaccurate belief that David is trying to steal his crown. (To be fair, of course, Saul will lose his crown to David; but that is God’s doing, not David’s.) However, as David and his men hide in a cave, Saul unknowingly walks right into their hiding place to relieve himself. Suddenly, David’s path to vengeance couldn’t be clearer. As David’s men point out, it would appear that God has delivered Saul into his hands, and vengeance can now be his — if he will only strike.
But David has a different sense of the situation: “The LORD forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, the LORD’s anointed, or lay my hand on him; for he is the anointed of the LORD.” (1 Samuel 24:6) David trusts that it is God’s job to sort out the issues between himself and Saul, not his. And so, rather than harming Saul, David merely cuts the corner off of Saul’s robe — thereby offering evidence that where he could have taken revenge, he chose mercy instead.
In this way, David models some advice that the Apostle Paul will give many years later:
Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary:
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:17-21)
Naturally, it is my prayer that you, too, find yourself in a time of “relational tranquility.” But if you don’t, may you, too, trust that the LORD is more than able to defend His own. May you live in peace and overcome evil with good. And in this way, may all of us share with others the grace and patience that we ourselves have received.