Commentary on the Gospel of
I shall allow no man to so belittle my soul by making me hate him.” Booker T. Washington
Today’s readings raise a number of significant issues. However, the recent celebration of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday and our country’s current divide, kept pulling me back to the first reading about King David and his son Absalom.
Abbreviated back story with King David and Absalom: A very handsome and engaging man, Absalom easily drew people to him. As his popularity grew among the Israelites, Absalom incited a revolt in Hebron. Despite being one of his father’s favorites, Absalom went to war with King David. Why would you go to war against your father, especially one who has so abundantly provided for your every need and want? To most people, it looked like Absalom had everything anyone could possibly want. Why would someone like him start a war, especially one with his father? Why is it that we humans always want more…why do we think we have never enough? Why is it so difficult for me to see how amazing my life is, especially in comparison to so many others in our world?
Back to King David and his son Absalom… during the battle, Absalom’s beautiful hair got snared on an oak tree and his mule trotted off without him. King David’s forces found him hanging there and reported it to the Commander, Joab. Joab, not a fan of Absalom, killed him as he was dangling there. Upon hearing of his son’s death, King David became distraught and the nation mourned with him.
For some of us, mourning a son who sought to overthrow you and probably kill you seems counter intuitive. However, King David was experiencing his son’s death as a significant loss…not only death but living in a future without his beloved son was heart breaking. King David was mourning as a father, not as an enemy combatant. The seemingly poetic justice ending of Absalom provided no balm for his grief. I like to think that King David’s response moved humankind closer to the realization that “A eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.” Mohandas Gandhi
So, how do we keep moving forward, as people of God, to a place where we see each other as “beloved”? To that place that King David was…not gloating over the death of a rival, but mourning his loss? Being able to see his son for who he was. ‘the good, the bad and the ugly’ and loving and grieving him anyway… remembering Absalom as God’s beloved child?
Can we learn to love ourselves and our family and friends so well that we will be empowered not to succumb to fear and hate? How can we learn to see past political parties and skin color and religion to realize that our differences make us stronger and infinitely more interesting? Just think what would happen to the ice cream industry if there was no diversity in taste and we only ate vanilla. Since we have successfully navigated respecting each other’s tastes in ice cream, we can take that next step of recognizing our fear and instead of flight or fight, breathe and ask why? Why do you think that? What is it about x or y or z that upsets you or makes you afraid? Let’s have discussions not debates. I will strive to remember that we all see things based on what has happened to us, who we have been living with and listening to.
Next time I want to say, “How can you even think that?”, I will stop and open my hand and mind so I can connect, not condemn. I will try to be better than I am---Instead of making assumptions or writing people off when they voice an opinion so counter to my beliefs, I will stop and listen. I will try to remember King David’s all-encompassing love for his son, even though his son raised an army against him.
The person I am trying to connect with doesn’t have an army, they have their experiences and fears as I do. So, if I can love someone whose favorite ice cream is butter pecan, why can’t I try to connect with someone who votes differently than I do?
Let’s go for big hearts in 2020. Our communities, our nation, and our world needs us to step up so all of us have the future God envisioned for us.