Today’s readings from 1 Samuel (2 Samuel 15:13-4; 16:5-14) recount the events of a horrible betrayal: Absalom, King David’s son, has deposed him as king with the help a confidant of David’s from his inner court, Ahithophel. Long before Shakespeare, Caesar and Brutus, and even Jesus, there is David and Absalom. The thirst for power leads even sons to seek to kill their fathers, shameful, indeed. Yet this story, about the one who had God’s favor, reveals a truth about living as God’s people in the world: we are not immune from the ways of life.
Life comes with many intricate decisions being made by people that impact each other. Decisions made in a board room, in a conference room, in a church meeting, can have implications the people never saw. Yet, the fact remains that willful decisions by humanity have an impact on others and the cosmos. All we have to do is see how convenient a plastic bottle of water is and how damaging the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is to us and the creatures God created for us to take care of and enjoy. Our convenience is an unimaginable reckless act that never entered our consciousness.
The fact of the matter is that God shows his greatest respect for us in not having a sanitized perfect world. God allows our actions and the actions of others to play out. I often believe that the idea that the sins of the father visit “the third, fourth, and fifth generation” is more a statement about how the ripple effect of sin impacts us all. Sin has consequences. Some of those consequences we would call “collateral damage.” The collateral damage of Absalom’s lust for and rise to power is that it exposes David to betrayal at several levels. Even the Lord’s Favored is not immune from the impact of someone else’s sin.
So, what is the benefit of believing? Well, I am not sure that is the question we should be asking. What are the benefits of having a friend? Often, we are giving more than getting in that relationship so it is good that we don’t think of our friend as a utility knife that helps us cut something, open a bottle of wine, or be a screwdriver in a pinch. God is not a pez dispenser, nor a vending machine. He is a Father who has 7 billion children trying to get all of them to love each other.
What the Father promises us is that he will walk with us through the bad treatment by others. He will walk with us through our own stupidity. The Father will take our mistakes and make something good out of them. The Father will take the evil we endure and make something great out of it.
Often times, we lose perspective and think this is the only world. This a world within a greater world called “heaven and earth.” For those who have endured the greatest evils, I have no doubt, there is a place in heaven for them. See Lazarus in the Gospel of Luke. As well, there are many people God will call on to think of you, pray for you, and do things for you that you never thought remembered you. It has happened to me many times. So, whatever bad situation you are in, whatever betrayal you are enduring, God will take that evil done to you and make something good out of it if you are open to moving forward and trusting Him.
Look at David, although betrayed by Ahithophel, he was made king again (Oh, shoot! I gave away the ending.)
Mark Kurowski, M.Div., is the Spiritual Director and Executive Director of My Spiritual Advisor, Inc. He has been betrayed many times.