The Story of a Divided Israel
One of those most haunting passages in scripture escapes David’s lips at the news of his son, Absalom’s death.
“O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom!” he cries, “Would I had died instead of you, O Absalom, my son, my son!” (2 Sam. 18:33 NASB).
What you may not know is that Absalom was more than David’s son, he was his bitter enemy during a bloody civil war. After murdering his half-brother Amnon for raping his sister, Absalom decided that the only way true justice could be meted out in the land of Israel is if he was the final arbiter.
His words reek of spiritual pride: “Oh that one would appoint me judge in the land, then every man who has any suit or cause could come to me and I would give him justice” (2 Sam. 15:4 NASB).
Absalom attempts a coup. He moves into Jerusalem and proclaims himself King of Israel, usurping his father’s throne.
Civil war ensues.
And yet, when David finally gets the news that his enemy has been defeated, his first response is not joy but sorrow.
David wept over his dead enemy because he was more than an enemy. He was a son.
The Story of a Divided America
As I’ve been watching the news over the past several days and reflecting on the division that runs throughout our nation, I’ve been reminded of David’s cry. Though we might not be in the middle of an actual civil war, we’re the most divided we’ve been in decades – Or maybe the division has always been there like a disease that lies dormant in the body for years before finally exposing itself in a deadly attack.
Too many people on both sides of every divide view everyone on the other side as representing ‘the enemy.’ And through all of the name-calling and finger-pointing and blame-shifting, we forget that, though we might be on the opposite sides of certain issues, we’re more than enemies. We are brothers and sisters.
Keep in mind, this isn’t to say that we simply look past injustice, all hold hands, and sing Kumbaya. We should seek justice and righteousness in our own lives as well as in the life of our community. But justice without love is cold, harsh, and prone to over-correction.
Whole Peace or Brute Justice?
David could have rushed in, killed Absalom, and taken back his throne. That would have been justice. But David wanted more than justice, he wanted shalom – peace or wholeness.
If America is ever going to experience this kind of peace, it will begin in each of our hearts – as we examine our own prejudices, attitudes, words, and actions. And maybe even more importantly, as we allow ourselves to mourn with those who mourn.
Are we walking the path of Absalom? Believing that if everyone would just submit to us and our way, justice would result.
Or do we seek the path of David? Longing for more than justice – for wholeness – for communities to be put back together – for families to be restored – for the rule of God on earth as it is in Heaven.
We’re prone to entrenching ourselves in our position and minimizing the pain and sorrow of the other side. A Black person is killed and we shift the focus to black-on-black crime or how much more likely it is for a white police officer to be killed by a black man than for a black man to be killed by a white police officer. Likewise, innocent police officers are gunned down in cold blood and we recognize it as tragic but quickly point to all of the issues that this or that community is facing.
But we should do neither!
In both cases, a life has been taken.
Walking the path of a broken father
We should be crying out, “O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom!”
Forget all of the talking points and the political posturing and the defensiveness for five seconds and weep for the loss of one who bears God’s image!
We have a God who “demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8 NASB).
Christ died for the criminal. He died for the cop. He died for the drug pusher and the prostitute and the pimp and the proud and the self-righteous and the hateful and the murderer and the betrayer and everyone in-between. And he has given us, his Church, the task of calling all to enter his Kingdom.
As Jesus was dying, he cried out, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34 NASB). This is our example. As Christians, we’re called to pray for our enemies as they murder us. We’re called to love them in spite of their hate. We’re called to bless them as they mock and curse us. We are called to love.
David loved and wept for his Absalom.
Jesus loved and wept for his Absaloms (See Matthew 23:37).
May we do the same.