Readings: 1 Samuel 26:7-9, 12-13, 22-23; 1 Corinthians 15:45-49; Luke 6:27-38
Today Jesus challenges each and every one of us to love our enemies. I have met people who believed they loved everyone but I’ve never met anyone who didn’t have difficulties loving his or her enemy. There’s no reason why it shouldn’t be so.
At the same time, there’s no reason to believe that Jesus is asking us to do the impossible: difficult, yes, but not impossible. A work-in-progress, rather than a task accomplished–indeed! An on-going healing, still vulnerable and sensitive, but not impossible!
Loving our enemies was not invented by Jesus nor is it limited to the New Testament, or the Judeo-Christian tradition. Jesus asks us to love our enemies because such reconciliation is the fullness of being human. Rare as such love may be, it has been found in all peoples, cultures and religions.
David had every reason NOT to love Saul, to have felt all the resentment of betrayal, his love and friendship scorned by Saul–not to mention the tangle of mixed concern and revulsion provoked by Saul’s emotional instability and mental illness.
How did David manage to over-ride his instinct to eliminate Saul when he could have so easily? That could give me the key to begin the process of learning to love my enemy.
David does not pretend that there is an easy reconciliation with Saul. Even though David is God’s choice to replace Saul, he is not overconfident. Saul has the power, and will use it, to keep his crown. Saul is unstable and, in the moment, may reaffirm his feelings for David, but David never assumes this will last. He will continue to proceed cautiously until he is accepted as king by the people. But he will also genuinely mourn Saul when he dies in battle.
So how could he spare Saul’s life? I believe he went beneath the hurt feelings and the risk to his own life. He didn’t dwell on the threat and betrayal. Despite the ugliness of what Saul had become, and the ugliness of David’s own reactions, David went deeper and recognized him as the Lord’s anointed. And in seeing his dignity, I wonder whether he also saw the trust and love of which Saul had once been capable? If he could, that must have hurt, but he could not discard Saul as an inconvenience in his way.
That may not be the most satisfying kind of love, but isn’t all love self-sacrificing and not self-satisfying?