At daily mass recently the readings have been following the books of Samuel and the story of David, shepherd boy, anointed by a prophet of God and destined for kingship. They have prompted some reflections which I share here in case you are interested in my theological ramblings. I am not setting out to be a biblical scholar, so these are just my thoughts, in some sort of hopefully semi-cohesive form.
I have particularly been reflecting on the incident where David, in hiding from Saul’s violence, has the opportunity to kill the man from whom he is fleeing (1 Samuel 24). His companions urge him to do so, reminding him that the Lord has promised to ‘deliver Saul into your hands’. David throws down his sword, and instead of killing Saul, offers himself to him in humble, loving service. Saul’s response is, at least temporarily, repentance.
Perhaps it is this moment that marks David out as a true Man of God: his understanding that when God delivers Saul into his hands, he does not ask for violence: God never calls us to aggression. Rather, that Saul has been delivered into David’s hands through love, and it is to love than David is called. The recognition of this call to loving service is what proves David is really listening to God. And the message he hears is that meeting Saul’s aggression with love is the response that God himself asks. And Saul’s response, at least in the short term, is repentance. David either already knows, or learns in that moment that love holds a power greater than violence.
It is a tough call. David, literally, takes his life into his hands when he goes out empty-handed before the king and his armies who have headed to the hills with the express purpose of killing him. How often, not in the face of death perhaps, but risking ridicule or even just questions, do we opt for the easier path of aggression, be it actions, words or just in thoughts, rather than the self-sacrificing choice of loving service.
David comes out of the cave empty-handed. When he offers himself and rejects violence he does it openly, visibly on the hillside. The choice to reject violence is not just about putting down the sword, it is about him coming out from the shadows, leaving his hiding place and approaching in vulnerability and weakness. It would be unrealistic to suggest that for all who choose this route the outcome is as fortunate as David’s. The route of loving service can also be the path to martyrdom. But maybe it would lead to a situation like David’s more often than we think.
If only we had the courage to put down our weapons, to put down our harsh words, to come out from behind the masks which have become our security and to give it a try.
There is more, but this is long enough for one post – watch this space for the sequel!