That first reading might be lost on you. The David it speaks of is the same David that kills Goliath, the giant Philistine warrior that he is not expected to overcome; yet he kills him with a stone from his sling. That was David the young boy, this is David the man that we now hear of in the reading. Everyone likes him, he is brave, strong, good and handy with the harp. The Saul who is spoken about (in the reading) is the King who also likes him very much, but then becomes a bit troubled because he hears people saying that David would make a good king. Jealousy enters his heart until he wants to kill David. He hunts him down with his army.
The part of the story we hear in the reading, David comes across Saul and his soldiers and they are fast asleep in a cave. David has Saul’s spear and could dispatch him, kill him stone dead, he is in. his power, if he does this his troubles would be over. Instead, he takes Saul’s spear and when Saul and his soldiers rise from their sleep he shouts across to them, that he could have taken the King’s life, he has his spear, he could have killed him with it and stolen his throne, but he chose not to.
The part of the story that we don’t hear is that Saul regrets his jealousy of David and they are reconciled.
It’s meant to be a story that tell us that David instead of hating his enemy, he loves his enemy. Instead of doing his enemy harm, David shows him compassion. Despite the damage that Saul does to him, he shows him mercy.
Jesus picks up on that same theme in the reading from the Gospel, to say exactly the same. Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you. Bless the person who curses or mistreats you. To the person who strikes you in the cheek offer him your other. To the person who takes your cloak offer your tunic. Give to everyone who asks and don’t look for it to be returned.
Despite those words being so beautiful and powerful there is always something in each of us that rebels against them. If we show ourselves weak against our enemies, we think, they will take advantage of us. If we let them away with things, they will see it as weakness, that we are soft, naïve and an easy mark. If we allow people to harm us, they will only harm us even more. If we allow people to take something from us they will take even more.
This is a recipe for disaster. If the world was to run in this basis, then dishonest people would thrive, and injustice would run riot.
But the words appeal to our higher angels. There is something really good when a person rises above their passion for anger, to love, to forgive, to show compassion. There is something really good when someone gives without looking for anything in return. There is something good when someone is hurt but doesn’t retaliate.
It’s as if we rise above the brutish nature in us, to something better, something really good, to be something better. Like David we have the spear in our hand but we refuse to use it.
This week we have been listening to the story of the young girl in Syria that has been stripped of her UK citizenship because she went as a young 15 year old to marry one of the soldiers in the war. It has been an incredible brutal war in which things of great depravity have been done, but are not all wars the same? The young woman not even out of her teens has requested a return to this country. The authorities have forbidden it, even although the basis for doing seems dubious under international law. Her actions in leaving the country and joining the conflict on a particular side condemns her. Not the fact of her age, her religious culture, her naivete, the fact that she has had a number of children apparently none if these things deserve compassion or clemency. She is to stay where she is and she is to be made an example of.
Love your enemies. Bless those who curse and mistreat you. Give to everyone who asks. Don’t judge. Don’t condemn. These words seem to swim against the tide, especially in the case of this young woman.
Those words call us to compassion and mercy. It’s easy when you have that spear in your hand to strike. It’s easy when a person who has done your harm to do them harm. It’s easy when you have the moment to get your own back. It’s easy when you have the spear in your hand, to strike.
But is there not a moment when our higher instincts call us to something different and something better.
It’s easy when you have the spear in your hand to do your enemy harm. You have the upper hand. You are on top. The momentum is with you, but you can, if you wish, put down the spear to show compassion, mercy and compassion.
I suspect that young girl in Syria needs compassion, but she is not alone. I bet there are many people in our lives who need our compassion, mercy. A word of forgiveness. They need you and me to put down the spear and not strike them dead.