When was the last time you went searching for someone to show kindness? For me - too long. In fact, I’m not sure I’ve ever searched very hard. I was reading 2 Samuel 9:1, where David asked, “Is there anyone still left of the house of Saul to whom I can show kindness for Jonathan’s sake?”
This is the prelude to a great Bible story, when David sought out Mephibosheth, son of his best friend Jonathan, to shower with grace and blessing. Not only is it one of my favorite stories, it is one of the first Bible stories I learned as a very young boy.
I used to fall asleep at night listening to Bible stories from a set of records my mom and dad bought for me. I learned all those stories by heart through nightly repetition, and my brain still plays the organ music and narration whenever I read one of the stories in my Bible, even after 50 years. Not only that, I remember how proud I was that I could pronounce Mephibosheth. None of my peers could.
This story describes one of David’s first acts after becoming king. His journey to the throne, promised to him by God, was long and difficult, and for the most of it, he was running for his life from Saul. So when he finally received what God had promised so many years before, you might think he would take revenge on all those who had been chasing him. What David does, however, is ask if there is anyone left from the previous king’s family he can show kindness to. That is a great way to live; a great way to wear power.
I recently finished Mike Foster’s book, titled Gracenomics, and in it he encourages his readers to “be first in line to forgive, to race to release grudges, make room for those on life’s margins, raise our voice for the vulnerable, and accept the unacceptable.”
Again, what a way to live. Running to the front of the line to show grace and forgiveness is a great way to wear power and influence.
Running ahead instead of holding back to see if they really deserve forgiveness, instead of waiting to see if our grace is warranted, instead of wondering if they have made genuine change in their attitude and behavior. Not stopping to analyze or evaluate, but running to forgive.
So why aren’t we always the first in line to forgive? Why aren’t we the first to forgive family debts or slights? Why aren’t we the first in line to forgive political enemies? Why aren’t we first in line to forgive bosses who left us stranded when we needed their protection most? Why aren’t we first to forgive friends who hurt and betrayed us?
Is it because we are afraid of making a mistake? Or because we are afraid of looking foolish? Or is it because we are afraid if we forgive too soon it will only encourage them to do it again? Is it because it is more fun to post diatribes and judgments rather than offer forgiveness and grace?
In fact, it feels smarter, more discerning, maybe even deeper, to sit back and watch for real change before offering forgiveness. Running to forgive sounds too impulsive and naïve for those as spiritually sophisticated as we are.
But David didn’t hold back. In fact, he went searching for the very ones who had the most to fear from him. He sought out Mephibosheth, a man who was hiding in fear of his life. David went looking for someone to show grace to.
Jesus didn’t hold back, either. When Peter came to him for forgiveness, after denying three times, Jesus didn’t hold back saying, “I told you this would happen,” or “I’ll forgive you once I can see you’ve really changed.” He didn’t even wait until his own emotional pain had subsided. Jesus forgave Peter immediately and completely.
I also believe that if Judas had run back to Jesus instead of hanging himself, he would have received the same love and acceptance and forgiveness as Peter. Judas simply didn’t believe in the goodness of Jesus’ heart, so he didn’t risk asking forgiveness. What a shame.
Maybe the reason we are slow to forgive is that we don’t really trust Jesus’ heart, either.
I wonder if I can live Mike Foster’s challenge, running to the front of the line to be the first to forgive, first to offer grace and help.
How about you?
“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32