Cost of Immature Leadership

Scripture Focus: 2 Samuel 10
2 David thought, “I will show kindness to Hanun son of Nahash, just as his father showed kindness to me.” So David sent a delegation to express his sympathy to Hanun concerning his father.

When David’s men came to the land of the Ammonites, 3 the Ammonite commanders said to Hanun their lord, “Do you think David is honoring your father by sending envoys to you to express sympathy? Hasn’t David sent them to you only to explore the city and spy it out and overthrow it?” 4 So Hanun seized David’s envoys, shaved off half of each man’s beard, cut off their garments at the buttocks, and sent them away. 

Reflection: Cost of Immature Leadership
By John Tillman

David, who mourned his enemy, Saul, sent peaceful envoys to express sympathy to Hanun, the young Ammonite king, on his father’s death. Nahash, the former king, had shown kindness to David, and he sought to return that kindness. But the young king’s advisors sowed suspicion, conspiracy, and fear. Hanun believed them. He chose the politics of humiliation and intimidation, treating the envoys horribly. 

Wartime captives would be shaved and marched naked. Shaving half the envoy’s beards and cutting off half their clothing to expose their buttocks was more than rude. It implied they were on their way to being prisoners. What one did to a king’s representative was the same as doing it to that king. Hanun implied, intentionally or not, that David would soon be his humiliated captive. It was effectively a declaration of war. After the envoys left, Hanun seemed to realize he acted rashly and foolishly. 

David showed compassion to his envoys, but wasn’t intimidated by Hunan’s rash actions. Despite insults and threats, David didn’t leap to war. He waited, moving to defend Israel after Hanun hired mercenary armies. Hanun spent big to cover his bluster, but desperate military spending couldn’t save him. Joab easily won the first conflict, and then David rode out to battle, eventually subduing Hanun and all the kingdoms called in as reinforcements. In the final battle, over 40,000 of the soldiers supporting Hanun died.

David’s envoys were naked for a time. Hanun’s foolishness lies naked for all time.

When kings are careless, spiteful, and insulting, war and death are often the result. Many times in recent years, violence has erupted after violent, careless words from political leaders. Many times, leaders have embraced the politics of humiliation and intimidation. Too often, Christians have applauded this. Many times, people have died for leaders’ careless and rash words.

David’s example is not always good. But in this case, he kept a level head in the face of insults and intimidation, had compassion on those humiliated by others, and acted decisively to defend against violence and threats.

May we distance ourselves from rash, immature leaders like Hanun. May we grow in our own leadership and influence, showing empathy, even to our enemies, acting compassionately toward victims and the oppressed, defending the humiliated, and refusing to bow to or tolerate violence.

Divine Hours Prayer: A Reading
Thus says Yahweh, “Let the sage boast no more of wisdom, nor the valiant of valor, nor the wealthy of riches! But let anyone who wants to boast, boast of this: of understanding and knowing me. For I am Yahweh, who acts with faithful love, justice, and uprightness on earth; yes, these are what please me,” Yahweh declares. — Jeremiah 9.22-24

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

Today’s Readings
2 Samuel 10 (Listen 3:19)
Revelation 18 (Listen 4:48)

Read more about Puking Prophets of Success
By hubris they are humiliated. By turning away they become blind. By not listening they become deaf.

Read more about Lament the Fall of Leaders (Even Bad Ones)
But despite their words of judgment to the kings and rulers of Judah and Israel, both men deeply loved their country, their kings, and the people.

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.