Killing Blows

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Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 135; 145, 1 Samuel 24:1-22, Acts 13:44-52, Mark 4:1-20


David and his men were hiding in a cave when Saul, taking a break from his murderous pursuit to relieve himself, entered the cave and left himself vulnerable to attack. Despite the urging of his men and the weight of prophecy (“I will give your enemy into your hand, and you shall do to him as it seems good to you”), David spared Saul’s life and instead cut off a corner of his cloak. Then David used the corner as evidence that he could have killed Saul, but meant him no harm. Saul repented (for a while).

If we want to be peacemakers, we have to resist the temptation of using a killing blow just because the opportunity has presented itself. We may not be pursued by a mad king, but many people who view us as enemies – whether it’s in politics, religion, social circles, or business – do so because they misunderstand us. And we do the same. Some enemies are unavoidable, but many are created in our own minds. In many situations, such misunderstanding is more assumption than fact. When that’s the case, our best chance of de-escalating hostilities may be laying down our arms.

Have you ever had an argument with someone you loved, or maybe a co-worker, and said something you wish you hadn’t? An emotional killing blow that hurt them in ways you couldn’t fix? We do that because in the heat of the moment it promises to help us win … though the resulting prize is a damaged – sometimes broken – relationship. We do that because in our anger or fear we assume they seek to emotionally destroy us, and we want to get there first. It is a feedback loop of regret.

Like Saul, we can ruin our reputation, relationships, and legacy overreacting to mostly imaginary enemies. Better to be like David who, in the face of actual danger, sought understanding more than victory, and offered humility rather than defensiveness. Even when we are in the right, we should ask ourselves whether our goal is to annihilate our enemies or to make peace with them.


Additional Reading:
Read more about today’s passage from Acts in Shaking the Dust.
For additional thoughts on Mark, see Fertile Ground and Seeds of Faith.

Comfort: Misunderstandings can be cleared up.

Challenge: Sometimes you have to be the first to offer an olive branch, even if you’re not in the wrong.

Prayer: Help me, O Lord, to recognize my enemies, and to love them. Amen.

Discussion: Are you someone who has to have the last word?

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