Wednesday, May 01, 2013

The Challenge Continues, Day 115: II Samuel 16-18; Psalm 95; Acts 10

Funny word, partiality: I see it as a "leaning toward" someone, something or some ideal. It isn't quite prejudice, or perhaps that is just a question of word choice? It is preferring one thing over another, clearly; but does it mean exclusion or rejection of that other?

That is the big question today. In II Samuel, David is on the run from Absalom's rebellion. Dozens of old grudges and resentments, along with the tensions between Bathsheba's son and the king have acted like an accelerant on the continually smoldering embers of conflict that seem woven into the very fabric of David's rule. Intrigues abound, with faithful advisers to the king defecting to the usurper and the king installing his own sleepers in Jerusalem, that he might keep tabs on the rebellion.

David mourns the death of his son, the rebellious Absalom
Along the way of his flight, David's retinue encounters a kinsman of Saul. The man is nearly apoplectic with rage at the king, throwing rocks, dirt and insults at the monarch. David's men offer to kill the offending man for his insult to the person of the king...but David refuses to allow it. This is a continual stand-out in his behavior throughout this conflict: he does not turn from attacks, nor does he retaliate. He watches and observes and demonstrates that he has learned some profound lessons from the fall of his predecessor. He looks to God to reveal who God is partial to in this conflict. Of the man hurling abuse? Perhaps God has told him to do so. Of Absalom's rebellion? Perhaps that is God's will as well. Wait and see, and maintain faith in God...perhaps in time God will reveal who is to prevail.

Peter in fellowship with Cornelius
Setting aside the tropes of father-son conflict, rebellion and civil war, we turn to Acts and see Peter used as a servant to the Divine Will that all the nations should have made known to them the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Even as one Cornelius, a Roman officer who is also a righteous proselyte of the Jewish faith, is called upon to seek him out; Peter is adjured to open his eyes and heart to the understanding that God does not show partiality when it comes to the Good News. Everyone is welcome. All the nations are to be welcomed.... one case it is a very limiting concept, and becomes a goad driving the people of Israel into civil war. To whom is God partial, in the conflict between David and Absalom? In another case it is a lever that opens the door of the assembly to people who until moments before were not really welcomed. To whom is God partial in Christ? To Israel, or to all the nations? In the former case, God seems to be sorting out the human conflicts engendered by jealousy, rage, resentment and fear. In the latter, God is using this characteristic through Peter to demonstrate the radical welcome we are all to express as we proclaim Christ. When overcome, partiality leads to a holy state that raises up ALL in fellowship and helps us to see each other less as "other" and more as the beloved of God.

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