Tribalism and Insurrection

Scripture Focus: 2 Samuel 20.8-10
8 While they were at the great rock in Gibeon, Amasa came to meet them. Joab was wearing his military tunic, and strapped over it at his waist was a belt with a dagger in its sheath. As he stepped forward, it dropped out of its sheath. 

9 Joab said to Amasa, “How are you, my brother?” Then Joab took Amasa by the beard with his right hand to kiss him. 10 Amasa was not on his guard against the dagger in Joab’s hand, and Joab plunged it into his belly, and his intestines spilled out on the ground. Without being stabbed again, Amasa died. Then Joab and his brother Abishai pursued Sheba son of Bikri. 

2 Corinthians 13.10-12
10 This is why I write these things when I am absent, that when I come I may not have to be harsh in my use of authority—the authority the Lord gave me for building you up, not for tearing you down. 
11 Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you. 
12 Greet one another with a holy kiss.

Reflection: Tribalism and Insurrection
By John Tillman

Sheba’s insurrection was an opportunistic power grab. Sheba was mad that someone from his tribe wasn’t still in charge. So he said loudly of David, “Not my king!” (Sounds eerily familiar…)

Sheba belittled David by calling him “Jesse’s son” and played into familial hatreds and inter-tribal bitterness that still was problematic between Saul’s tribe, the Benjamites, and David. Initially, eleven of the twelve tribes followed him.

David’s kingdom was politically and militarily precarious. David’s new general, Amasa, was the former general of Absalom’s rebellion. David’s choice of Amasa may have been a sly political move, but it failed. 

Amasa fails to gather troops and stop Sheba and the Bible is unclear on why. David feared that Sheba would escape to a fortified town and, because of Amasa’s delay, that is exactly what happened. It seems likely Amasa’s delay was purposeful. This is why David felt the need to put his trust back in the “Sons of Zeruiah.”

Joab certainly treats Amasa as if he was a threat, but Joab treats everyone that way. Was Joab dispensing justice to a traitor or simply murdering his rival? It’s probably both. 

Given time, Sheba’s rebellion could have grown, but the insurrection finally ended because of the words of a wise woman. The wise woman of Abel, with her diplomacy, bravery, and wisdom brought an end to Joab’s campaign and Sheba’s insurrection. 

We should all be wary of those, like Sheba, more loyal to their tribe than to God’s kingdom. Divisive leaders appeal to our tribal instincts and desire for power. They belittle opponents and call for conflict and conquest. This can happen in countries, in denominations, and in churches. 

It is difficult to make peace with insurrectionists. They aren’t interested. In a world fluent in violence, when we speak of peace, it is “an unknown tongue.” Being a peacemaker may sometimes mean silencing or excluding those who only want war. But with God’s grace, may we take our cue more from Paul, than from Joab. 

Joab uses a kiss as an opportunity to knife Amasa in the belly. From a worldly perspective, Joab’s way seems like the only way. With a holy kiss, Paul encourages us to strive for full restoration. This may be something that, humanly speaking, seems impossible. However, with God all things are possible. May we learn to follow Paul’s “more excellent way” and replace retribution with grace.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me out of all my terror. — Psalm 34.4

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
2 Samuel 20 (Listen – 4:51)
2 Corinthians 13 (Listen – 2:19)

This Weekend’s Readings
2 Samuel 21 (Listen – 4:34), Galatians 1 (Listen – 3:05)
2 Samuel 22 (Listen – 5:22), Galatians 2 (Listen – 3:44)

Read more about Grace Displaces Retribution
The kind of humility and gracious forgiveness often shown by David is as greatly out of place today as it was in his own time.

Read more about Dealing with Joab
When I was a younger man, I admired Joab. I thought Joab saved David. I was wrong.

A Christian Response to Offense

Scripture Focus:  2 Corinthians 2.7-8
Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. I urge you, therefore, to reaffirm your love for him.

Reflection: A Christian Response to Offense
By John Tillman

There is nothing in the Christian faith more strangely counter-cultural, and more practically difficult to live out, than how the New Testament instructs us to deal with offenses and with offenders. 

In today’s culture, the concept of free-speech has been weighed, it has been tested, and it has been found wanting. Words, ideas, beliefs, and pronouns can all cause great offense in today’s dialogue. 

Our culture is unable to bear offense and simultaneously unable to bear forgiveness. A typical response to offenders is to block or unfriend them or to tell them to, “delete your account.” Telling someone to delete their account expresses a belief that the person does not deserve to exist on the same platform, or live in the same world, as the persons he or she offended. It is akin to wishing someone dead.

In response, some grumble about the world being “too sensitive.” These people say we need to “toughen up.” Those who, through ignorance or insensitivity, brandish words that hurt others are like the irresponsible archer of Proverbs, firing flaming arrows as a joke. When we refuse to consider others’ feelings we are burning down the world for our own amusement and ease. “Can’t they take a joke?” is not a biblical defense Christians can lean on. 

Christ did not come to make our hearts tough but tender. When Christ instructed us to turn the other cheek to offense, it was not intended as a show of toughness. Christians not only must be considerate in avoiding offense when possible, we uniquely seek to reconcile offenders as we have been reconciled to God. 

Paul instructed the Corinthians to “reinstate the account” of the offender. Paul knows what he is talking about and knows the difficulty of what he is asking us to do. Paul was an offender who went beyond unkind words. He constantly breathed out murderous threats and acted on them by falsely imprisoning families and putting Christians to death. 

Only through Christ can we bring back into fellowship those who humble themselves regarding their offenses. (Without humility, one cannot be reintegrated.)
May we soften our hearts and our words rather than harden them, avoiding avoidable offense
May the only offensive words we speak be the “foolish” and offensive message of the gospel.
May we practice responsible restoration as described by Paul*, marked by sorrow, humility, repentance, and reintegration.

*Abusive leaders are disqualified from reinstatement to positional authority, such as being pastors, elders, or deacons. But reintegration into the community, based on humility and repentance is vital.

Divine Hours Prayer: A Reading
Jesus taught us, saying: “Watch yourselves, or your hearts will be coarsened by debauchery and drunkenness and the cares of life, and that day will come upon you unexpectedly, like a trap. For it will come down on all those living on the face of the earth. Stay awake, praying at all times for the strength to survive all that is going to happen, and to hold your ground before the Son of man.” — Luke 21.34-36

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
2 Samuel 8=9 (Listen – 3:51)
2 Corinthians 2 (Listen – 2:13)

This Weekend’s Readings
2 Samuel 10 (Listen – 3:19), 2 Corinthians 3 (Listen – 2:25)
2 Samuel 11 (Listen – 4:25), 2 Corinthians 4 (Listen – 3:02)

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Read more about Avoiding Avoidable Offense
The gospel is offensive and counter-cultural in its nature, but Paul strives to avoid avoidable offense. 

Read more about Crucified, By Nature
It is hard for us to grasp how foolish, offensive and shameful crucifixion was in the ancient world.