Then Jonathan said to David, “Go in peace, because we have sworn both of us in the name of the Lord, saying, ‘The Lord shall be between me and you, and between my offspring and your offspring, forever.’” And he rose and departed, and Jonathan went into the city. 1 Samuel 20:42
Nathan said to David, “You are the man! Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you out of the hand of Saul. And I gave you your master’s house and your master’s wives into your arms and gave you the house of Israel and of Judah. And if this were too little, I would add to you as much more. Why have you despised the word of the Lord, to do what is evil in his sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and have taken his wife to be your wife and have killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. 2 Samuel 12:7-9
These are confusing and chaotic times, aren’t they? In the midst of all the “culture wars” and PR posturing on social media and political battles over moral issues that, frankly, will never be resolved in the political arena, we in the church are haunted by a single question: what does love look like? In the face of ISIS and others persecuting Christians around the world, the church must figure out what does love look like? On politically entangled issues of immigration, the church must answer what does love look like? In response to legalized same-sex marriage and increasing pressure against the church for teaching what it believes on this issue, the church must know what does love look like? And those pundits on either side of any of these issues who have nice, neat, clean and simple answers to that question are, frankly, not helping the conversation at all.
So each of us is left to discern for himself/herself what love looks like. And, perhaps as often as not, we fall horribly short in our response. We get easily blinded to the truth about each other or about God or about ourselves, because we live in a world where truth is whatever the politicians or the media or our friends on Facebook tell us it is. And we live in a culture that blindly accepts a distinction between “your truth” and “my truth”. We get blinded by our own passion or our tribe or our need to be right or our need to win the next election. We find ourselves responding to our brothers and sisters on the other side of these issues with anything other than love. We are blinded and we behave badly because of it.
This is where we can learn from King David. He was also blinded from time to time. His own passion got him into trouble more than once. It blinded him to the truth about others, or about God, or about himself. What separated David from so many other (less effective) kings was not that he was immune to being blinded…he clearly was subject to it just like you and I are…but it was his willingness to enter into and maintain friendships that helped him see the truth about himself, others and God. He listened to counsel. He sought other views. His closest friends (like Jonathan and Nathan) were not only willing, but were INVITED to speak hard truths to him. When he was blinded to the truth, his friends were not “enablers”, allowing him to indulge himself in the lies. Rather, they loved him too much to permit that. They said hard things when hard things needed to be said.
Social Media has been all abuzz with people asking some hard questions across the lines of division on some of these issues. Maybe you have seen them. “10 Questions for Those Christians Who Believe __________.” “20 Questions for Those Christians Who Voted for __________.” I am asking some hard questions as well…of myself. The questions I am asking myself today (and the questions I suppose I am daring you to ask yourself) are these:
(1) When I am blinded to the truth and cannot see what love really should look like on a particular issue, are there friends in my life who will say the hard things necessary to help me see?
(2) How open am I to listening to that counsel from those friends?
(3) Do I have genuine friends whose political ideologies differ from mine and whose counsel still matters to me?
(4) Do I consider myself immune from being blinded by my own passion or my own tribe? And have I given my friends permission to tell me when I am out of line?
(5) Am I that kind of friend to anyone?
I humbly confess to all of you, my friends, what I have been confessing to the Lord over recent weeks: I am often confused and not altogether sure what love looks like, and I desperately want to find that truth…I am capable of responding from that place of blindness, and I need friends who will love me enough to tell me when I do.
We all do.