This week, our morning prayers have centered on the reading of the story of David and Absalom.  Absalom was the rebel child of King David.  He was an insurrectionist who won the hearts of the people, and revolted against King David, attempting to kill him and overthrow the government.  Kings do not take kindly to insurrection, even from their own family.  Any king would kill his enemy at the first chance, to ensure that no one challenged his divine authority.  And yet, David gives his soldiers specific instructions to be gentle with Absalom, who as the unfortunate victim of the all too common long-hair-stuck-in-a-tree-while-riding-horseback predicament , is swiftly killed by David’s top officer.  The military success in putting down the rebellion.  And yet, David’s first concern of the battle is the well-being of his chief enemy, Absalom.  On discovering Absalom’s death, David weeps loudly, crying “O Absalom, my son.  If only I had died instead of you”.  This weeping disheartens the whole army, who cannot reconcile his mourning with their triumph.  Yet, David deposes his commander, and pardons and reconciles both the people and leaders who wronged him.  He also seeks out the sole surviving member of his other enemy Saul’s household, giving the crippled man Mephibosheth a seat at his own table.

David’s actions are incredibly shocking and anti-kinglike.  By pardoning his enemies, he put himself and his kingship at serious risk.  Yet, we know David was called a man after God’s own heart, despite his many flaws.  Perhaps David was so in-tune with his own brokenness, his foolish jealousy, sexual sin, murder, and his own personal pardon from God for these offenses, that he began to recognize a different way forward, a way around the cycle of violence, through forgiveness and reconciliation.

One of my former housemates had a bumper sticker that said, “When Jesus said love your enemies, I’m pretty sure he meant don’t kill them.”  It certainly brings to light how we as a nation treat out enemies, and yet, how much more are we called to love our enemies.  So often we operate on the ahimsa principle of do no harm.  And yet, the call to love suggests action rather than inaction.  Breaking the cycle of violence cannot simply be about building walls between our enemies, but must be about reconciliation.  To truly love our enemies, we must come to terms with our own brokenness and recognize that if we truly believe in the creation story, then every person has the creative spark or image of God within them.  If we cannot learn to love our enemies, then we probably cannot be people who are after God’s own heart,  The heart of God is made clear in the Eucharist: a God that suffers at the hand of his creation and who allows himself to be broken in love.  This is love.

P.S. David’s Lamentation in sacred harp style or choral arrangement… both very moving pieces.

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