Goliath-Sized Love

A friend of mine shared a very intriguing and challenging thought with me about one of the most famous of Old Testament Bible stories.  In the account of David & Goliath, young David slays the giant enemy of God and cuts his head off in the most mismatched duel you could possibly imagine.  It was a miracle that injected hope into the nation of Israel and terror into the enemies of God.  Her point was that, since on this side of the Cross of Jesus everything has changed in our posture with the fallen world, that we need to be clean of hatred of people in our pursuit against evil.

“Goliath was knit in his mother’s womb the same way I was. God knit him, right?  Did Jesus not change the law and say ‘A NEW LAW I AM GIVING YOU, LOVE ONE ANOTHER?’ It CAN’T, NOT mean Goliath too.”  

The idea stunned me, but she’s absolutely right…even though it challenges some deeply valued aspects of the Christian culture I grew up in. I remember learning the story of David & Goliath, and a bunch of other Old Testament stories about killing people who didn’t believe in my God, when I was a little kid in Sunday School. It seems like it was generally accepted that all those stories were important to teach little, impressionable kids so that they could learn how strong and almighty God was; while at the same time reminding them that we’re not actually supposed to resort to hatred & slander & violence in real life…because Jesus changed all that.  So, why teach children those stories when their brains aren’t yet mature enough to be able to understand complex, abstract issues like how Jesus’ propitiating death, burial, and resurrection changed the nature of heaven & earth, and set the stage for a new era in God’s relationship with mankind? Anyway, I digress from this little pet peeve issue.

Now, I understand that the story of David & Goliath wasn’t about two people who didn’t like each other resolving their differences, but it was part of a war between nations.  I get that, and I support the need for lethal defense against nations & individuals who want to cause harm to others.  That aside, it’s a challenging thought to actually LOVE ONE’S ENEMIES, isn’t it?  Not condoning or partnering with evil, not excusing or pardoning legitimate grievances that require consequences; but being motivated by love for the enemy rather than thirst for indignation.  Like the Lord’s brother James says,

“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.” (James 1:19-21)

It’s telling how, so often when Christians are threatened or mistreated, we resort so quickly to Old Testament (i.e. “Old Way”) values while giving lip-service to Jesus’ revolutionary commands.  Jesus teaches us to turn the other cheek, love those who persecute us and mistreat us, and give more to those who wrongfully take from us.  These values are meant to be counter-intuitive and challenging, given in Jesus’ signature style of exaggeration; but that doesn’t give license to throw away the lesson, as so often happens. Jesus’ own character and lifestyle are there for us to model and imitate.  My perception is that we tend to follow Him in this regard until it becomes unjust, super uncomfortable, or when we encounter outright evil….and then we dispatch Jesus’ mansie-pansie answers and revert back to the strength and decisive control of the Old Testament God.  And then after the dust clears, we wonder why we’re struggling inside with our own inner demons and attachments to false gods.  This requires surrender of any right we believe we have to be anyone’s judge.  Not that we are called to agree with evil as the Lord defines it, certainly not!  But in our response to evil we must strive to be motivated and directed by love of the individual, leaving the judging to God.

I saw someone wearing a T-shirt a few weeks ago that said ”God Loves All The People You Hate.”  That should be sobering.

I learned this hard-fought lesson years ago, and it has served me very well.  If there is a person in your life that you think is misguided – or even evil – there are only two options for you…you’re either right or wrong.  If you’re right, then God knows about it too, and it’s His responsibility to pursue & convict the person…not yours.  You are not God’s instrument of judgement or wrath.  Your role is to love the person as only God can through you, representing His truth through the filter of the same mercy and grace that forgives you for all your own B.S.  On the other hand, if you’re wrong about the person’s evil, then God knows that too.  And when the fingers point back to you, the Loving Father has a way of ferreting-out of us the blurring presuppositions and prejudices that cause us to see the specks in the eyes of others while not noticing the big log in our own vision.

These are some of my thoughts, now consider the following thoughts from the mind of God…..

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (John 13:34)

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 6:12) 

”Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:17-21) 

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:43-48) 

“For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.” (John 3:16-17)