Memo 1082: Dealing with Opponents
We saw in study 1080 how a man named Shimei met David during his retreat from Jerusalem to insult and dishonor the king. After God preserved David during the revolt of his evil son Absalom, David returned to Jerusalem, only to have Shimei be the first one to greet him as he returned:
When Shimei son of Gera crossed the Jordan, he fell prostrate before the king and said to him, “May my lord not hold me guilty. Do not remember how your servant did wrong on the day my lord the king left Jerusalem. May the king put it out of his mind. For I your servant know that I have sinned, but today I have come here as the first from the tribes of Joseph to come down and meet my lord the king" (2 Samuel 19:18-20).
When David returned with his crown intact, Shimei was singing a different tune, this time humbling himself, hoping to spare himself any punishment for his previous foolishness. How did David respond to this man? Was Shimei sincere in his acknowledgment of his sin? How should you respond to those who have wronged you? Let's see if we can answer those questions in this week's Memo.
Let's start with Shimei. Was he sincere? Or was he simply afraid for his life after what he had done? Of course, the answer is that we don't really know. Only God knows the heart so it's best to leave the heart matters to Him. Jesus directed us to judge fruit and not hearts: "By their fruit you will recognize them" (Matthew 7:16). We are to examine the fruit to determine if someone is speaking the truth or lies, and that takes time to see what kind of fruit follows what a person says. Only time would tell if Shimei was sincere or would revert to his nasty self.
To see how David responded, let's look at the course of action one of his advisors recommended: "Then Abishai son of Zeruiah said, 'Shouldn’t Shimei be put to death for this? He cursed the Lord’s anointed'” (2 Samuel 19:21) to which David responded, “'What does this have to do with you, you sons of Zeruiah? What right do you have to interfere? Should anyone be put to death in Israel today? Don’t I know that today I am king over Israel?' So the king said to Shimei, 'You shall not die.' And the king promised him on oath" (2 Samuel 19:22-23).
In essence David said, "I don't need to prove that I am the king and in charge by killing this man. This is not a day for vengeance, but for humility, for the Lord has chosen in His mercy to restore me. Since He has been merciful, I will follow His example." That is just how David handled his first encounter with Shimei as he was fleeing Absalom, and he was returning to his throne in the same spirit and demeanor. There was no vengeance or need for retribution in his heart.
What can we learn from this story? First, David knew it ultimately wasn't about him, and you need to remember as God promotes you that it's not about you. While David is a good model here, Jesus is the best model for He never took things personally. He turned the most intense sessions with His opponents into teaching and learning opportunities for those interested, and never retaliated for the wrongs he received.
Second, it's not up to you to mete out vengeance for those who sin against you, for you would not be as objective as you need to be in the process. Instead, you are to trust the Lord who made this promise in Deuteronomy 32:35: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay. In due time their foot will slip; their day of disaster is near and their doom rushes upon them.” Paul repeated that promised in Romans 12:19: "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." Finally, Jesus said a new standard for how to deal with enemies when He taught,
“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" (Matthew 5:43-45).
If you are going to sit on and remain on the throne of leadership God gives you, you will have to learn how to deal with your detractors, and you will have some. Not everyone will rejoice when you are promoted so it's best to learn how not to be consumed by their backbiting or criticism. Keep David and Jesus before you as your models of how to treat those who mistreat or disrespect you and you will position yourself for God to be the one to fight your battles. Take matters into your own hands and you will spend time and energy trying to maintain a throne that you didn't earn by your power or strength. It was a gift of God and now you have a chance to represent Him by responding to others as He would have you do, even those who question why you have a throne in the first place. Have a blessed week!