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(Part 29)


January 20, 2012
Today’s reading: 1 Samuel 24:3-21

Today’s reading is about how David spared Saul’s life, when he had the opportunity to kill him, as Saul was pursuing him to take his life. David’s reason? “The Lord forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, the Lord’s anointed, as to lay a hand on him, for he is the Lord’s anointed.” (1 Sm 24:7). David, in the same breath, gave his reason twice: “he is the Lord’s anointed.”

When God chooses us for servant leadership, He anoints us. After all, we are stepping into Jesus’ sandals, doing his divine work. On our own we are unfit. But because we have been chosen to be God’s instruments, in order that we might accomplish His will, then God provides, equips, qualifies, enables, strengthens, empowers. In other words, He anoints.

Now this does not mean we become transformed into gods. Far from it. We remain our sinful selves, and often God is able to do His work only in spite of us! Thus is the seeming anomaly: leaders anointed by God, but still failing in many respects.

Now oftentimes, subordinates only see the failings. Then they begin to act negatively towards their superiors--disrespecting, questioning the authority of, acting harshly toward, disobeying, putting down, and so on. That is wrong. That is akin to rebuking the very authority of the one who anoints, and that is Jesus.

What then should a subordinate do in the face of seeming failings of those over him?

First, we should recognize that authority and anointing do not necessarily mean a perfect leader. In fact, looking at the very choices of Jesus, the twelve apostles, they were a motley crew, with many imperfections. It is recognizing that God indeed chooses the lowly and no-accounts to do His work (1 Cor 1:26-29). As such, we are able to make generous allowances for shortcomings.

Second, we certainly can speak out, directly to our elder, but with respect. David called “to Saul, ‘My lord the king!’” and “bowed to the ground in homage,” then “asked Saul ....” (1 Sm 24:9-10). We do not have to silently endure what we see to be wrong. We can reason out with him. We can even give fraternal correction. But we must be sure that our motives are pure, that we “plan no harm and no rebellion.” (1 Sm 24:12c).

Third, we should realize that oftentimes, because we ourselves are very imperfect, we may be wrong in our assessment of our elder, that in fact our posture and position are what are in error. David quoted to Saul a proverb, “From the wicked comes forth wickedness” and then concluded, “So I will take no action against you.” (1 Sm 24:14). We must look to ourselves closely, challenging our own motivations and reasoning in complaining against our elders.

Fourth, we should be mindful of the elder’s task, which is to care for the flock including all his subordinates. He oftentimes acts like a father to his children. He loves them. Now being imperfect, just like any father, he errs, he hurts, he acts unwisely. But that does not make him any less a father. David said to Saul, “I will not raise a hand against my lord, for he is the Lord’s anointed and a father to me.” (1 Sm 24:11b). So rather, we make allowances for an elder’s shortcomings, we give him the benefit of the doubt, we love unconditionally, we pray for God’s wisdom upon him, and so on. We should try to help him out rather than just opposing him outright. We still treat him generously, even when we feel he has done us harm (1 Sm 24:18b).

Finally, we leave everything up to God. Since he is God’s anointed, then it is God who acts to remove him if needed. We do not take on the authority of God by rejecting one whom He anoints. So David said to Saul, “The Lord will judge between me and you, and the Lord will exact justice from you in my case. I shall not touch you.” (1 Sm 24:13).

When God calls servant leaders to serve Him, He certainly knows their weaknesses and shortcomings. Still, He intends to go great things through them. Knowing that God knows, and will still act, our part then is to not get in the way, and to not take over judgment from God. We should in fact try to see how we can cooperate with God’s grace, and help ensure that God’s anointed is able to accomplish his task.

Such a posture helps ensure unity and peace in the body.

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