True Oaths to Keep

Scripture Focus: 2 Samuel 9.3, 8
3 The king asked, “Is there no one still alive from the house of Saul to whom I can show God’s kindness?”
Ziba answered the king, “There is still a son of Jonathan; he is lame in both feet.”
8 Mephibosheth bowed down and said, “What is your servant, that you should notice a dead dog like me?”

Reflection: True Oaths to Keep
By Erin Newton

Last week we explored the dynamics of David’s eulogy for Saul. David’s relationship with God motivated any kindness extended to Saul’s memory. David’s allegiance was not bound to political authority. He sought to honor God above and beyond the actions of the king.

After all his national conquests, David’s heart was turned toward kindness again. The motivation was “for Jonathan’s sake.” David had made an oath to Jonathan that his lineage would not be cut off (1 Samuel 20.13-17, 42).

The type of person who can dwell with the Lord knows the price of keeping an oath. “The one whose walk is blameless…who keeps an oath even when it hurts, and does not change their mind” (Psalm 15.2,4).

Jonathan was dead. If David changed his mind, he would not have Jonathan nearby to rebuke him or urge him to fulfill his duty. However, David’s relationship with God guided him to be like the blameless person the psalm described.

Fulfilling David’s promise meant seeking out someone to bestow favor. The answer to the oath was not knocking on his door. It was not waiting for him. Keeping his promise meant acting, not just reacting.

Fulfilling David’s promise meant giving up his possessions. The text tells us that all the land once owned by Saul would be restored to Mephibosheth and he would always eat at David’s table. Even with resources and financial security restored, Mephibosheth would partake of David’s resources at every meal. David gave what was owed and then gave of his own.

…keeps an oath even when it hurts…

In many ways, this oath could have been painful for David. He restores a relationship with the descendant of Saul, although for the sake of Jonathan whom he loved. There is an element of humility in which the opposing families are reconciled by the willingness of David to show kindness.

The oath was financially painful in some ways. David could have given only what was easily afforded or could have been used in a way that continued to benefit him. The gift secured Mephibosheth’s finances and physical needs indefinitely.

When we hand our lives to Christ, we trade our nature for his. Jesus, who gave all he had to others—food, health, time, space, reputation, pride, power, life—bids us to make an oath to love our neighbors. And to that oath we must keep our word, even when it hurts.

Divine Hours Prayer: A Reading
Jesus taught us, saying: “In truth I tell you, there is no one who has left house, brothers, sisters, father, children or land for my sake and for the sake of the gospel who will not receive a hundred times as much, houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and land—and persecutions too—now in this present time and, in the world to come, eternal life. Many who are first will be last, and the last, first. — Mark 10.29-31

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

Today’s Readings
2 Samuel 8-9 (Listen 4:51)
Revelation 17 (Listen 3:19)

Read more about Not So Random Acts of Kindness
Eating at the king’s table, Mephibosheth was treated as an equal to David’s sons.

Read more about Loving God by Loving Others — Guided Prayer
In all these things, may we bring glory to God by loving others.
May we love you, Lord, by loving others.

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.