8/11/2015 2:29:08 PM
A reflection on 2 Samuel 18: David vs Absalom's Revolt
A month ago, I met with the Woodcliff Lake Police Department. I was doing a ride-along, touring the jail, meeting officers, and taking a ride with an officer during a patrol. When I asked my ride-along partner about challenges in the community, I heard four things. The heroin epidemic is real and police officers recently started carrying Narcan to treat Heroin overdoses. The department is struggling interacting with folks suffering mental illness. The officer was glad to share that he feels that drunk driving incidents have dropped in the 20 years he's been on the force. But he did mention one issue, off the cuff, that is always in his work. This issue has been consistent in quantity, and intensity, for 20 years, crossing all races, backgrounds, and whether someone is rich or not. He was talking about domestic violence.
The story we read in 2 Samuel today is an attempt by the lectionary to condense 6 action-packed chapters into one short reading. Sexual and domestic violence (again) is tearing David's family apart. David's eldest son, Amnon, raped his half-sister Tamar. David refuses to punish Amnon so Absalom, another of David's sons, kills Amnon. Absalom flees but returns at David's request. Absalom, however, doesn't remain quiet. He raises an army, claiming he can be a better king than his father, and drives David out of the country. However, to cement his claim as king, Absalom commits his own sexual violence on David's concubines. David responds by sending his generals to defeat Absalom, asking them (in today's verse 5), to not kill his son. Joab doesn't take David's word seriously and, after Absalom's army is defeated, Absalom is killed. David, once again, loses a son. The cycle of violence continues devouring his family, countless soldiers, bystanders, and women.
David's story is a difficult story because it is an honest story. Domestic and sexual violence is a reality that too many deal with everyday. The violence cycle passes from generation to generation, with children inheriting the violence of their parents. The church struggles with how to address this. Culturally, it sometimes feels like we just have to accept this reality as "the way it is." But I don't believe the story is recorded in scripture for our mere acceptance. David's story does what the gospel does: bringing light to the stories we ignore or are in darkness. This reality isn't what God wants and we're called to stop the cycle of David's violence. We're called to be like the king David - Jesus. We're invited to change our society so that the cycle of violence ends, domestic and sexual violence committed by men is stopped, and for all victims of this violence find healing, wholeness, community, and hope.