Summary: Loving our enemy is not easy, but living out the Christian life isn’t either! This message looks at how we are to respond to evil people who do bad things to us.
It may have been King David’s lowest moment. His son Absalom was leading a revolution against him. Absalom was a charmer and had convinced many that David was too old and ineffective to lead. When Absalom stormed the city with his troops, David and his army left Jerusalem and left the palace vacant. David decided he would rather be humiliated in retreat than to be involved in a bloody civil war against his own son.
What a horrendous moment this must have been for Israel’s most celebrated king. On the way out of Jerusalem, David must have thought, It can’t get any worse than this. But it did. A commoner by the name of Shimei taunted David as he fled the city. Shimei stood on a hillside throwing clods of dirt and stones at the king and cursing him saying, “God is finally getting even with you for what you did to King Saul, you bloody traitor!”
One of David’s men snarled, “Let me go up and run that impudent coward through with a sword.” David’s response was incredible. He said, “No. Don’t kill him. Let him go. Maybe I’m just getting what I deserve.”
If that were the end of the story, we would hail David as a great man—how noble to forgive such an offense. Well, David was a great man, but that’s not the end of the story. I wish it were. But David couldn’t forget so easily that wrong that was done to him. He couldn’t let go of those words Shimei had said. The memory of that offense festered in David’s mind for years. On his deathbed, about a decade later, David speaks his final words to his son, Solomon in 1 Kings 2:8:
“Remember you have with you Shimei, son of Gera, the Benjamite from Bahurim, who called down bitter curses on me the day I went to Mahanaim. When he came down to meet me at the Jordan, I swore to him by the Lord: ‘I will not put you to death by the sword.’ But now, do not consider him innocent. You are a man of wisdom; you will know what to do to him. Bring his gray head down to the grave in blood.” Those were David’s final words. David had not forgotten, nor had he forgiven, and now in his death he gets his revenge.
Yet before we get to hard on him, have we done the same? Have you ever held on to some hateful feeling, wishing you could get back at a person. Have you ever held a grudge and instead of seeking peace, you sought to get even. If you have ever been hurt, if you have ever had anyone treat you badly then you know what it is like to have that emotion inside you.
A part of you says you want to forgive that person and let go because you know that is what you ought to do, but the pain runs deep and there is that part that wants to see that person pay for what they did to you. You want to see them hurt like you hurt. You want to see them go through what you go through. You want to see them pay for what they did.
And it makes sense from a worldly standpoint. If you hurt me, I get to hurt you. What goes around comes around. It comes so natural to us. We can even throw the bible in there to back it up. “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” It sounds good on the surface, but eventually it leads to an unending cycle of violence and pain.
But as Christians, Christ has called to a higher standard. Jesus said, You have heard it said, Love your neighbor and hate your enemy, but I say unto you, love your enemy, and pray for those who persecute you. I remember the time when my eyes really first lit up to this. It was the Sunday after 9/11, I was asked as the pastor to talk to the teenagers of the church about what had happened, and I was all set. I was ready to talk about how God is no fool, a man reaps what he sows and how these terrorist were not going to get away with anything, justice will be served and all that. But when I opened it up to conversation about what they thought about it, a young man named Jamie Beard, who was only 15 at the time, shocked me when he said, “we should pray for them because they obviously don’t know Jesus and we should pray that they come to know Him so they won’t do things like this.” I was floored, I caught myself before I said anything, but I wanted to scream I will never pray for them, but I knew he was right. This 15 year old kid was light years ahead of me in this department.