I was really moved by the sermon today at church. (That’s Fellowship Church in Holden, Massachusetts if you care.)
To be honest, I didn’t expect to be. The sermon that was begun today was “The Holy Trinity of Manhood.” Pastor Marty is going to be focused on three issues that men have: women, sex, and power. Those who know me well will attest to the fact that I am simply not very good at being a guy. 😉
God knows I have struggles. But they aren’t steretotypically male struggles. In fact, I’d probably benefit a bit by being a bit more like a stereotypical male. And so, I didn’t expect to feel particularly connected to this topic… And truth be told, there were a few points that my wife and I smirked at each other, sharing the recognition that the things being said about the stereotypical male were much more true for her than for me. (It’s a long standing half-joke between us, the idea that she’s more man than I’ll ever be.)
So perhaps part of why I was struck was because I wasn’t expecting to be. And perhaps the reason I was struck was also because it had been a really hard morning, and I was really needing God’s presence in my life.
Marty shared the story of David and Bathsheeba. (Did I get her name right?) It was a story I new, but not one that I had much connection to. The reader’s digest version:
David begins lusting after another man’s wife. The man is fighting in his army. He gets her pregnant. He sets the man up to be killed on the front lines. A prophet comes in with a parable. He gets David to see that in the abstract, those who possess lots should not take from those who have nothing. The prophet helps David apply this to himself. David repents, deeply and thoroughly.
I guess Marty was a bit like that prophet. I guess I was a bit like David. Becuase the story had always been this abstract story with no traction in my life. Marty’s focus, today, on the aspects of the story that do relate to me, were powerful.
I realized that my really tough morning was partially my fault. I realized that other’s actions are not an excuse for my reactions. I realized that every time we sin against others, we also sin against God.
On a more geeky level, I had some other thoughts about David’s actual circumstances. One of the things I’ve always thought about the story is that it’s a bit ridiculous. How could David not get it? How could that one little story change things so utterly?
It occurred to me, though, today, that it was a slippery slope that David was on. Leaving aside the questions of lust and sexuality, I am contemplating the idea that somebody might be a powerful king, and making decisions every day that lead to soldiers deaths.
To simply survive on a daily basis, it seems like a leader would have to dehumanize his soldiers a bit. A commander who couldn’t distance himself from his soldier’s humanity, he’d be paralyzed by fear and utterly ineffective.
It’s probably not a very long journey from accepting that soldiers will die to using these deaths for personal gain.
And it’s significant that David had hundreds of wives. It’s pretty easy for me to wrap my brain around a pretty simple truth: we’re made for monogomous relationships.
But if (God help me!) I had hundred of wives… It would do more than just cheapen the institution of marriage. It would do more than just weaken my comitment.
It’s not a very long walk from “It’s appropriate for me to lust after all of my wives” to “It’s appropriate for me to lust after all women.”
I wonder what it was like when David realized he’d produced an heir. I wonder if there is some aspect of political machinations in all this.
The idea that a pretender to the throne could be raised outside of his family must have been scary. I wonder if David thinks, “This could be a threat to the children I’ve sired through my wives. He won’t grow up with very good things to say about me, if I let the father live. He’ll hate me if he grows up seperate from me.”
Once the dad is disposed of, David could have looked at himself like a hero. It would not have been out of place, historically and contextually speaking, to simply kill the whole family. He might have rationalized that he was making an “honest” women out of her, and inviting his “illigetimate” son into the fold.
When I see that David’s self-delusion was understandable, and when I focus on how heart-felt his repentance seems, I look at the story in a whole new way.