Tag Archives: sinfulness

The horrors of King David

I was horrified this morning as I read 1 Samuel 11 – not just the edited version of the lectionary, but the whole chapter.

King David was terrible.

  • He sends out his troops in battle but stays home in Jerusalem.
  • He sees the wife of a foreigner who is fighting for him and lusts after her.
  • He sends messengers to get her to come to him. He goes to bed with her.
  • When he finds out she’s pregnant he tries to find a way to hide it.
  • He sends for the foreigner who is fighting for him and tells him to go home and have sex with his wife. He even sends a present after him.
  • The foreigner, more just than David, refuses and instead sleeps with the other troops at the palace door. The foreigner had sworn by God and by king David that he would not do it and he is true to his word – as well as to God and king David.
  • Then David gets him drunk so that he’ll go home, have sex with his wife, and cover up David’s adultery.
  • The foreigner, although drunk, refuses.
  • David is distraught. So he sends a message to his commander by means of the foreigner that tells his commander to find a way to do away with the foreigner, disguising it as an act of battle. David not only commands a killing; he sends the message through the person who he wants killed.
  • David’s commander arranges for the foreigner to be killed by a strategic move during a battle. Other soldiers are also killed.
  • David gets the word. He’s first angry at the defeat but is appeased when he finds out the foreigner is killed.
  • After the foreigner’s wife finished the time of mourning, David took her into his palace as another of his wives.

David was a sinner – and Psalm 51 is perhaps the only decent response to these acts.

But are we any better?

You may have noticed that I did not use the names of Uriah the Hittite, Bathsheba his wife, or Joab. David treated them not as persons but as things to be manipulated for his pleasure and power.

Do we do that?

Also, are we not often like David in other ways? I remember the honest answer of Jimmy Carter to the question about whether he had ever committed adultery. Carter recalled that he had committed adultery in his heart.

And how many times are we not like David in trying to cover up our sins and the results of our sin? We may not kill someone to do this but we sometimes try to manipulate persons or the facts in order to cover up our sins. Or we may try to kill another’s reputation by blaming our faults on another.

I think I see some of this happening in the US primary campaigns and in the corrupt politics here in Honduras. But I must also ask myself, “How much am I like king David?”

Horror of horrors.

But God is merciful.

Have mercy on me God in your kindness;
in your compassion blot out my offense….
Psalm 51

God’s mercy and our shortcomings

A few weeks ago I came across this quotation from Thomas Merton, who died on December 10, 1968:

“But the man who is not afraid to admit everything that he sees to be wrong with himself, and yet recognizes that he may be the object of God’s love precisely because of his shortcomings, can begin to be sincere. His sincerity is based on confidence, not in his own illusions about himself, but in the endless, unfailing mercy of God.”

I struggle with accepting my limitations, my sins, my inadequacies. It’s so much easier to pretend that I am not perfect, but good.

But Merton is suggesting that the start of our life of faith is remembering what is wrong with ourselves – but not stopping there.

If I don’t recognize where I am wrong, I can end up thinking I am right and everyone else to wrong. I can find myself taking on a “god complex.”

A few months ago, I ran across these words of St. Thérèse of Liseux:

How happy I am to see myself as imperfect and be in need of God’s mercy.

Reflecting on these words, which mirror Merton’s, I wrote in my journal that morning. (This is slightly revised.)

How hard it is for me to acknowledge my errors, my failures! How difficult it is for me when I’ve made a mistake, when I’ve not done something as well as I think I could. How reluctant I am to face someone , to talk with someone, when I’ve not done something well or put things off. I am afraid of looking bad.
But St. Thérèse remind me that my imperfections could very well be the path to letting God’s love and mercy touch my soul, transform me, bring me to conversion.

Recognition of our sins and shortcomings, of our imperfections and errors, can open us to the mercy of God.

That too is at the heart of the Jesus prayer

Lord Jesus Christ,
Son of the Living God,
have mercy on me,
a sinner.

Why call a guy like Matthew?

I would probably have had difficulties with Jesus’ call of Matthew in today’s Gospel (Mark 2: 13-17) – not for the same reasons that the Pharisees had, but because he was allied with the imperialistic oppressive Roman occupiers.

How could such a man, allied with the unjust oppressors, become a follower of Jesus, the Prince of Peace?

Part of the answer is found in today’s first reading from Hebrews 4:12-16. I was particularly struck by two verses:

“All creation is transparent to him.” (v. 13)

Nothing is hidden from God; he sees into the hidden recesses of our hearts and can see our weaknesses, our failings, our sins.

But,

“we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses.” (v. 15)

Jesus shows us the face – and the heart – of a compassionate God, a God who has compassion (suffering with us) because he sympathizes (feels with us) in our weaknesses.

Even as we recognize our sins and weaknesses, we need not see them as insurmountable obstacles to God’s loving call to be his followers.

He sees all this, but loves us and wants us to be his companions, those who break bread with him at the table and follow him to spread the good news.